Monday, June 29, 2015

Ainsley's Angels And The Power To Push

"The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step."

When we embarked on this "Grace-filled journey" last November, it wasn't exactly the journey we hoped to take. But our friends, family and community (both near and far) have been there to join us every step of the way.

Although there aren't many ways we can help Grace, we can raise money to help with research for INAD (infantile neuroaxonal dystrophy). And this community has certainly been generous. We have attended so many fundraisers these past few months, and know that this money will be put to good use at Washington University.

We continue to make plans for "A Grace-Filled Journey" 5K and one-mile race, which will be held on Sept. 5, and hope you will join us as we continue to raise awareness for this terrible disease.
It seems like everywhere I go, someone new tells me they can't wait for the race in September. We will have people from all over the country participate here in Hillsboro and in their own home towns by virtual race. And it's sure to be a really great day.

A few weeks ago, I got a phone call from a friend of mine, Angie Tefteller of Hillsboro. I met Angie several years ago when I was doing a story for Litchfield McDonald's. They were kicking off their annual "Give a Little Love" campaign, and Travis and Angie's son, Dalton, were being featured, as the family had stayed at a Ronald McDonald House.

Grace and Dalton celebrating "superhero" style at Dalton's 16th birthday party.
 In some ways, Dalton's story is similar to Grace's. He was born "normal," but began to regress in his walking skills after he turned a year old. The family is still seeking a diagnosis for his condition, but Dalton definitely doesn't let any of his challenges or limitations slow him down. He's a Special Olympics athlete and medalist, and a multi-year winner of the smile contest at the Illinois State Fair.

Angie called to tell me she had an idea for a fundraiser for the INAD study, and also that she had been following some of the posts we have shared from Ainsley's Angels of America. And she wanted to get a push chair for Dalton so she could run in the 5K event for Grace.

For those who don't know, Ainsley's Angels of America, also has a connection to INAD. Ainsley Rossiter, the 11-year-old daughter of Kim "Rooster" and Lori Rossiter, has also been diagnosed with INAD.

I first learned about Ainsley's Angels of America before we knew Grace had INAD. Last year, my brother, Johnny, pledged to run 1,000 miles for Grace, and during his first marathon, he saw someone pushing a chair with the Ainsley's Angels logo on it. It was striking enough that he went home to look up what it was all about, and we were both inspired by the story.

The mission of Ainsley's Angels of America is to ensure everyone can experience endurance events, while also building awareness about America's special needs community through inclusion in all aspects of life, by promoting awareness, providing education, and participating as active members in local communities. They have chapters all over the country and help support a wide variety of races.

According to their website, when Ainsley went for her first jog during a local road race in 2007, she gave a radiant wind-induced smile that anyone would envy. In an instant, running provided the family with a therapeutic means to fight the devastation associated with learning and trying to live with the fact that sweet Ainsley has a terminal illness. Her smile on the race course, the positive energy surrounding the start line, the other rider athletes and pushers smiling from ear to ear, the togetherness of every member preparing to ‘roll with the wind’, the fearlessness of the athletes, the normalcy of the family, and the love everyone shares is a therapy like no other!"

To date, Ainsley has been the captain of more than 80 races, including five half-marathons, and continues to provide inspiration for runners everywhere.

Dalton and his friend, Mitchell Beck are ready to roll in the Grace 5K this fall.
 When Angie called me, she told me that she had been in contact with Ainsley's Angels of America about the possibility of purchasing a used push chair. She received a response that the group didn't really have any used chairs, but they would be glad to help her set up a fundraising site, so others could help with the expense of a chair for Dalton. She thanked them for their response, but said she would continue her search in other ways, and that she wanted all the fundraising efforts to go to INAD research.

Not long after, she received a message from Rooster Rossiter, asking for her address. She provided it to him and once again asked about used push chairs with no luck.

When she called me, it was to tell me that she returned home from work one day to find a rather large box at their house, and that the Rossiters had made sure Dalton would be able to be a captain in the 5K for Grace this fall.

Angie and I both got a little teary-eyed on the phone, just so grateful for the kindness of family, friends and even strangers.

The Teftellers have already started training for "A Grace-Filled Journey" 5K, and we hope you will too. I promise it's a day you won't forget.

For more information or to sign-up for the race, visit or stop by The Journal-News office in Hillsboro or Litchfield to pick up a registration form. All proceeds will benefit the INAD study at Washington University.

Because #TogetherWeShall #BeatINAD.


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