In 2009, Burns Middle School health technician Jeff Miller and special services teacher Amanda Owen set out to change the life of a little girl with cerebral palsy – and in the process, changed their own lives and offered hope to many others. Karlie Hempel was Amanda’s student when Jeff proposed the idea of buying a jogging stroller so that Karlie could participate in running races with him. In just four days, teachers and students at the school had raised enough money for the stroller and gear for Karlie to wear.
In that first year, Karlie, Jeff, and Karlie’s friend Lauren Tucker ran five races. Today, with four members and volunteers who push them, Team Karlie participates in a regular schedule of races, and sponsors an annual 5K Run/Walk at Burns Middle School that serves as a fundraiser for the organization. Because of a growing relationship with the Owensboro Area Walking and Running Club, more volunteers are available to push new members of Team Karlie in future races.
Team Karlie’s mission statement is “to provide young people with physical disabilities the use of a special jogging stroller so they can participate in the sport of running. Team Karlie wants other kids who can’t walk to experience the energy and excitement of racing. Kids with disabilities, especially those who can’t walk, often feel frustrated by their limited mobility. The sport of running is something these young people would not be able to experience without the use of the special jogging strollers, and the runners who push the strollers also experience a joy they won’t soon forget.”
Jogging strollers cost $695, and with the goal of adding at least one new team member every year, donations are important. Read on to learn more about Team Karlie, and then check out their Web site at www.teamkarlie.com to learn more about how you can help.
What were your feelings when Jeff Miller and Amanda Owen first approached you about the idea of Karlie participating in races?
Excited— We have always tried to involve Karlie in anything in the community that we could. We felt involvement would enhance her quality of life.
What challenges have you faced along the way?
The most challenging things we have faced are explaining what Team Karlie is all about, why we do this and the benefits to the riders.
What are some of your successes?
Our members are the successes! The smile on their faces during the races, the friends they have made and the general positive atmosphere generated by Team Karlie in the community are our successes.
How does being a part of Team Karlie help Karlie and the other kids who participate?
Being a part of Team Karlie and being involved in a sport, which those with physical disabilities would normally not be involved, enhances self-worth and self-esteem. The team is cheered on and noticed. The riders feel excitement at going fast and being involved with a community event.
How is Team Karlie growing?
As funds allow, we purchase additional strollers for additional participants. Through the schools, Internet and word of mouth, parents/caregivers and our community are becoming more aware of Team Karlie.
Who is eligible to participate in Team Karlie?
To participate in Team Karlie, an individual with a physical disability and their family/caregivers should be willing to participate in 5-8 races during the year and transport and care for the special-use jogging stroller.
What advice would you offer to parents of children with disabilities who might like to participate in Team Karlie?
Please contact email@example.com for an application. You don’t have to have a person to push your participant. We have many willing volunteers who would love to push our members.
What is in the future for both Karlie and for Team Karlie?
To be all that we can be and to involve as many individuals with physical disabilities as we can in Team Karlie.
Tell me about the 2nd annual Team Karlie Family Fun 5K Run/Walk.
This is is our main fundraiser. This year we are also donating a portion of the proceeds to the Muscular Dystrophy Association in honor of our member Ruben Matias. Proceeds from our event will help us purchase additional special-use jogging strollers for future team members. The special-use jogging strollers enable an individual with physical disabilities to safely experience the excitement of a race. More information and registration forms are available to download at www.teamkarlie.com. You do not have to run to participate. We welcome walkers and our course is accessible. We will also have a family fun area with balloons, concession, face painting, etc. We accept any donation and are a 501(c)(3) non-profit and all donations are tax deductible.
How can people become involved with Team Karlie?
You can read our story, see our pictures, videos and much more on our website www.teamkarlie.com or on Facebook. We would love to have you join us! Contact firstname.lastname@example.org.