WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – For the first time in history, an inclusive racing competition is coming to the Wichita area on Saturday, April 2, 2022.
The Kansas organization of Ainsley’s Angels of America, a national nonprofit dedicated to building awareness and inclusion for people with disabilities, will host its first 5K at Dorner Park in Haysville at 3 p.m.
“There are three things we really want to do is educate, advocate and celebrate,” said Ainsley’s Angels of Kansas Ambassador Craig McDaniel. “We take an individual that would otherwise not be able to participate in an endurance event, pair them with an able-bodied runner and provide a running wheelchair, and then we participate in those running events.”
McDaniel founded the local chapter after learning his son, who suffered a traumatic brain injury when he was 6-months-old, loved to be pushed in his wheelchair.
“When Michael was about 4-years-old we were pushing him in his wheelchair, and we were on a sloped driveway, so I push his wheelchair up, and it would turn around, and it would come back down pretty fast, and he just lit up and laughed and loved it,” McDaniel explained.
McDaniel and Michael then started competing in 5Ks and 10Ks here and there.
“I thought I bet there are other people that would enjoy doing this,” McDaniel said.
The rest is history. McDaniel has grown the Kansas chapter of Ainsley’s Angels from one rider to 30 in a matter of years. For his son Michael, racing is freedom.
“It’s one of the only times and only sports that he can really participate in fully,” McDaniel explained. “This one he can be fully enmeshed in. When he is out there, and that runner is lending their legs to him, he is a runner.”
The same goes for Bella Palmer. Bella, 11, is a part of Ainsley’s Angels and has competed in more than a dozen races.
“They are fun,” Bella told KSN. “I like the crowds.”
On Saturday, the fiance of Bella’s mom, Bobby Paramore, will race with her for the first time.
“I went to my first race in Haysville last year and watched Bella and watched her excitement, and I told my fiance that day that I will push her some time, and I felt that this was the perfect race to do it,” said Paramore.
Paramore said racing has positively impacted Bella. It has given her an opportunity to feel a part of something bigger than herself.
“They are always looked at differently. This helps them be looked at as normal,” he said. “They are happy. They are healthy. They can do just the same thing as I can.”
Paramore, like McDaniel, is hopeful that the upcoming race will inspire inclusion in the Wichita area and beyond.
“If it’s just helping open some eyes to ways that we could integrate everyone into our society and be full participants, I think our society just benefits,” McDaniel said.
Click here for more information about the event, registration, pre-race dinner, and more.