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Team Super Kids
Team Super Kids, comprised of children with special needs and their siblings from Washington, D.C., Virginia and Maryland, will participate in the Healthy Kids Fun Run for a fourth consecutive year. Team founder Erin Wentzell, who has a doctorate in physical therapy and owns Brown Bear Therapies, says the group was organized with the physical therapy department of Children’s National Hospital as a way to celebrate October as Physical Therapy Month. Now with cooperation from physical therapists throughout the tri-state area, Team Super Kids has supported over 60 children in this program since 2008.
As with any race, participants follow a training plan to ensure success on race day. Team Super Kids uses a program based on the American Physical Therapy Association’s “Moving Across America” plan to get ready for the Healthy Kids Fun Run. Children set goals and gradually increase their physical exertion through aerobic, strength and flexibility exercises conducted both at home and with their physical therapist.
“When our athletes join our team we encourage them to begin moving every day, whether it is walking with a walker, pushing a wheelchair or jogging around the block,” said Wentzell.
Wentzell shares that for the majority of the children who join Team Super Kids, the pre-race training and Healthy Kids Fun Run are their first formal exercise experiences. Often, it is also the first time they are able to participate in an activity with their siblings.
“For many families it is difficult to find an opportunity for all children to engage in activities together,” said Wentzell, “and it increases a sense of camaraderie and improves self-esteem.”
The Marine support at the Healthy Kids Fun Run has a profound effect on Team Super Kids members, as well. Children are motivated by the Marine presence and encouragement on the course. “To see a young child smiling up at a Marine as they help push them in their chair or run next to them while they pedal their adaptive bike, it is unforgettable and truly inspiring,” said Wentzell.
One of her favorite memories from Team Super Kids in the Healthy Kids Fun Run was when one of their athletes, a young boy named Caleb, finished the race. After completing almost the entire course pushing a walker with the aid of his physical therapist, the boy was surrounded by a large contingent of Marines. The Marines began saying cadence and accompanied him to the finish, where his very proud father awaited him.
“He repeatedly stopped to throw his fists in the air and look around at the Marines jogging next to him,” recalled Wentzell. “He was so proud of himself and he waved to the crowd as he crossed the finish line.”
This morale boost for Team Super Kid participants is a valuable benefit after the Healthy Kids Fun Run. In therapy following the race, Wentzell said she sees an improvement in children’s confidence.
“For many of these children this is the first medal they have ever earned,” she said. “Knowing that they achieved it makes all other goals seem attainable.”
This year’s Healthy Kids Fun Run will be held on October 29.
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