|Many people enjoy running with a partner or in groups, and with good reason, too. Turning a jog into a social event can help runners in many ways, including improving their race times and overall running performance. It is also believed that social runs can help break barriers for children with special needs.Achilles Kids is a non-profit organization that helps children with a wide range of disabilities participate and compete in regular exercise and sports activities. Program participants who complete a virtual marathon over the course of their school year receive a pair of new athletic shoes from the organization. Volunteers with Achilles Kids map out a course consisting of 26.2 miles, which is the equivalent of a marathon, in local communities. Volunteers then help children complete portions of the “marathon” a little bit at a time.
Studies have shown that participating in athletic activity can greatly improve the quality of life in people with special needs, and running is a great place to start. For 24-year-old Alex Schneider, who has autism and is non-verbal, running was a new beginning, according to USA Today.
Ever since Alex’s mother took him and his twin brother Jamie, who also has autism, to a running club with volunteers to assist participants, he has been hooked on running. With the help of his devoted coach, Kevin McDermott, Alex has completed more than 150 races, including many marathons.
Running organizations like Achilles Kids and the one that inspired Alex’s love of the sport help change the lives of children, thanks in large part to the volunteers and caring community members make the success of these organizations possible. One of the biggest supporters of these groups is Tom “Running Man” McGrat, who will run 157 miles through New York City to raise funds for Achilles Kids.
McGrat will run the equivalent of six marathons a day between September 29 and October 4. The run will take him through the five boroughs of New York City, beginning at City Hall in downtown Manhattan. Here, kids from the local Achilles Kids chapter will join him on the first leg of his journey.