As moms go, Michelle Gentis is a pretty remarkable one. Not only is she training to run a full marathon, she's going to do it while pushing her wheelchair-bound son.
It's largely the Vancouver-based mom's 'can't beat 'em, join 'em' attitude that sparked her desire to run with her son, Joshua, who is severely physically disabled.
"We experienced a number of heart-breaking moments when I had to pull him off a soccer field so the boys could play ... With tears streaming down his cheeks (and mine) we loaded into our wheelchair van and went home," recalled Gentis. "My son loves people and can't talk. He loves sports and can't walk. What is a boy and a mom to do?"
Tired of seeing Joshua pushed to the sidelines, and upset that he couldn't participate in so many activities with his able-bodied peers, Gentis decided to make it happen.
As a single mom with a disabled child, Gentis says that not taking care of herself is "a luxury I can't afford." Her training schedule includes a minimum of three runs a week, but flexibility is a must with Joshua's appointments and various work commitments.
"Sometimes I need to be very creative to get these workouts in," admits Gentis. "Sometimes it's a real fight with myself to fit them in when life is too busy. I've learned it's important for me to always have a goal to work towards."
Right now that goal is the Boston Marathon qualifier, which takes place in Toronto in October. Drawing her inspiration from Rick and Dick Hoyt, an American father-son team who participated in marathons together, Gentis began training, and in 2008 she and Josh ran their first half marathon thanks to a borrowed jogger.
Both mom and son were hooked. Thus Team Joshua was born. Funds raised by Team Joshua will go toward a special racing chair for sport-loving Joshua, and hopefully to set up a foundation to provide mentoring and coaching for disabled children. To help them achieve their goal, please visit www.teamjoshua.ca.
If they make Boston, Team Joshua will be only one of three teams to ever qualify with a wheelchair, and the first and only to do so with a woman at the helm. For Gentis, the best part of competing is the joy it brings her son.
"Staying involved in the community," she says, "getting out there and doing as many things as we can together has gone a long way in helping Josh (who has every reason to be really frustrated) actually be a very happy kid."
So the next time you're struggling to drag your butt out for a paltry 5K, watch this video of Gentis and Joshua. I know I will.
What were you most afraid of as a child? For children's book author Leslie Miller, it was the 'black panther' lurking in the hall at night... While childhood fears may seem silly once we grow up, at the time they can feel momentous and debilitating. That's why Fobie Friends has created a new series aimed at empowering kids to "find the fun in facing your fears."
After grilling teachers, parents and counsellors, Leslie and Brian Miller teamed up to create the stories which explore perhaps the three most common fears: the dark, heights, and water. Every book is gorgeously illustrated by Alessia Girasole in a style reminiscent of the movie Up, and features playful and inventive rhymes that end with the same closing affirmation: "I don't fear my fears, they fear me!"
Children are invited to "show their fear who's boss" as they set out on a journey alongside, respectively, a water-goggled sea horse, a purple gorilla, and a fluffy owl. In each case the cute critters shed a fresh perspective on the dreaded situation, proving that there is really nothing to be afraid of. Quite frankly, I wish these books had been around in my day!
Fear is a big issue for my four-year-old son. As with many kids on the autism spectrum, his anxiety looms large. Seemingly trivial and innocuous things can scare him to tears—from toilet flushes to dogs, and pretty much all three of the subjects covered so far by Fobie.
He immediately took to the books, though I worried that the vivid illustrations might inadvertently scare him more. That didn't seem to be the case, even after multiple readings. I was also concerned that the language might be too sophisticated for him to follow (a consideration for younger kids and those with delays). Again, not the case.
Plush Fobie Friends from the stories are available, too, providing children with a cuddle-worthy reminder of the story's lessons. E-books are also available, though these quality hardback books are sumptuous and would make an amazing gift or heirloom. Fobie fans (as we now consider ourselves) are in luck. The series will continue, with other fears being addressed in forthcoming books.
What are your children most afraid of?
Talk about inspiration. A clothing retailer whose slogan is to fit in while standing out has just found its perfect face in Karrie Brown, a teen with modelling aspirations, who also happens to have Down's syndrome.
When Karrie reached out to Wet Seal, the company then challenged her to accrue more than 10,000 likes on Facebook in return for "something special." Well, the St. Louis-area girl more than delivered, garnering some 14,000 likes on her page at the time, and now the retail chain has since flown her to California for a photo shoot.
“Karrie’s enthusiasm and passion for fashion caught our attention and has inspired all of us here at Wet Seal,” said Wet Seal's CEO, John Goodman. “...Wet Seal is proud to be part of Karrie’s journey and we can’t wait for her to experience all of the surprises we have in store for her.”
More and more kids like Karrie are finding success in their own right, making their dreams come true by reaching out and believing in themselves. And behind every great kid, there's got to be supportive parents...
It's so refreshing to hear about open-minded and inclusive companies like Wet Seal, especially when hate and prejudice continue to plague children with differences. (Abercrombie, are you listening?)
What's your child's passion? How are you helping them make it a reality?