Michelle Gentis, and her twelve-year-old son, Joshua, know all about the struggle for inclusion - and the important role of community spirit and team sport as a catalyst for change. Each time she and Josh lace up, they prove mental strength is greater than any physical obstacle life may throw their way.
As a single mom from Vancouver, Michelle began running several years ago as a way to keep fit so that she could better care for Josh, who suffers from a rare brain disorder resulting in significant physical disabilities. He primarily gets around in a wheelchair and is unable to speak, relying on full assistance for daily living.
After several incidents with Josh on the sidelines of various sporting events, upset that he wasn't able to participate with his peers, Michelle was determined to find a team sport that her son could take part in. She learned about Team Hoyt, a father-son team from the US who participate in triathlons, and in 2008, she and Josh ran their first half marathon. Josh loved it! Decked-out in his own racing bib, and cheered on by other runners and spectators, he reveled in his ability to be right at the heart of the action.
The two have since run numerous half marathons, raising awareness for disability issues and funds for their own jogger, and in 2009 they ran the BMO Vancouver Full Marathon.
Although Michelle and Josh ran the half marathon in Surrey last year, this year's Surrey Marathon will only be the second full marathon the two have ever competed in. Heading into the race, they are full of optimism as they prep for the Boston Marathon qualifier in Toronto that they will be running next month.
It is Michelle and Josh's dream to qualify for and compete in the Boston Marathon - only 3 teams pushing a wheelchair have ever done so and all have been men. Michelle's priority, first and foremost, is Josh's happiness. Her goal is to enable him to actively participate in community sporting events, and to live his life to the fullest. With each race, she hopes to raise awareness of the challenges facing families of children with disabilities, to advocate for disability rights, and above all, to prove that overcoming adversity is possible.
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