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Bethann Wilkie's Fundraiser:

Ainsley's Inspiration

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Bethann Wilkie

THE STORY:

The things we love in this world are the things that inspire us. They give us passion. They move us forward and sometimes, they change the world all around us.

Ainsley is just one very small, yet very powerful example of this. Ainsley, was diagnosed with Infantile Neuroaxonal Dystrophy (INAD) just before turning four years of age. INAD is an extremely rare terminal illness that slowly causes global paralysis. Ainsley's mobility and speech were slowly, but surely taken from her, but her parents wouldn't accept anything less than inclusion for Ainsley in this world. When she became differently-abled than her peers, they found ways to keep her moving. They actually found ways to keep her rolling if we are going to be exact. This is how Ainsley's Angels began. Ainsley inspired her family, through their love, to make the world a better place and that they did. Ainsley's Angels provides racing chairs for children and adults alike that have disabilities that would normally prohibit them from participating in races. The distances vary from your local 5k to large scale full marathons. These people mean business and are including our differently-abled community members in these every day activities and experiences that we all take for granted. "Rider Athletes" are said to PULL our Angel Runners to the finish line. As an Angel Runner myself, I can 100% verify this statement.

Let me stop for just a second to tell you about my friend and running partner Bobby. Bobby was born with Cerebral Palsy and has never let his disability outshine his infectious personality. If you are feeling down about things, just go for a run with Bobby Hodge, Jr. I guarantee that you will go to bed feeling just a little bit more sure that goodness still exists. Bobby can't walk, he can't even straighten his legs, but that has never stopped Bobby from leading people. He won awards as being the top fundraiser for the local CROP walk in his hometown that raises money to feed the hungry and when our church builds ramps for community members in need, he is on site so that he can "test it out" for them and assure them it is safe. His speech is limited for those that don't know him, but that man can talk. I'm typically exhausted after our runs. Not from pushing his 110 lbs frame, but from keeping up with his questions and conversation and trying to translate in my brain what he is trying to communicate. The point is, Bobby Jr. is an amazing soul that has been unable to experience the exhilaration of running a race or crossing that finish line. His unbroken spirit and ginormous heart, as grand as they are, just couldn't will his body to work the way it would need to participate in every day life the same way that you and I do. That is until we found Ainsley's Angels.

I would say the rest is history, but it's an ongoing book for Bobby Jr and his riding career. Ainsley's Angels lent us a racing chair (valued at $900) for Bobby to participate in the Reindeer Dash for Cash, our very first race. To us, the story was a typical Bobby story. It had meaning, made us both laugh and cry and at the end, made us want to be better people. Typical Bobby. Bobby wanted to show his Nanny his loaner chair one day while on a run with our friend Jarrett. Jarrett agreed and followed Bobby's directions to see Nanny. Before he knew it, Jarrett was standing in a cemetery and Bobby was talking to a headstone. It was his Nanny's. Bobby asked Nanny to pray for Ainsley who had been sick and then smiled from ear to ear as he told her all about his new racing chair and that he was going to be in a race. He finished up by asking her to hug his dog for him and then told Jarrett they could go now. I shared the story with Ainsley's Angels to thank them for their generosity. I wanted them to know how much it meant to Bobby and I that they were letting us use their racing chair. The next day, Bobby received a message letting him know that Ainsley heard about it and wanted to gift him his VERY OWN RACING CHAIR. In Bobby's words, "I can't believe it!"

Ainsley passed away this week. Because I am at a loss for words on this, I will borrow them from her loving father. "Our sweet Ainsley decided to go for a long run this morning, as she peacefully glided into heaven. She will forever be with us. She has taught us so much about life. We will never forget her smile. She will continue to inspire, she will continue to bring us joy, she will continue to make us smile. How blessed are we to have been able to be touched and moved by her being. Together, We Shall continue to honor her and to live her legacy"

The loss of sweet Ainsley is heart stopping, but because we all loved this little girl many of us never met, we were brought together and reminded that we all have a fingerprint to leave behind. Bobby and I will be racing in just over a week in his hometown race for Relay for Life of Farmville, NC. Just as Ainsley gifted Bobby with an opportunity to race like the wind, I want to pay it forward. I want to raise the money needed to do the same for someone else that needs to feel included in this world. So I am asking for your help.

Each chair costs $900. I would like to at least hit the $900 mark to gift one chair. Changing one life is an amazing feat, but why not two? Please donate whatever it is you are able to and help us get one more Angel Rider on the road.

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