A mighty racer

Marathoner runs with his son, who has special needs, to benefit different charities

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For more information about Micah's Miles and the charities the organization benefits, visit sites.google.com/site/micahsmilessnell/5-for-5-in-2015 or search "Micah's Miles" on Facebook.

To participate on the Micah's Miles team for the Walk, Roll 'n' Run, an annual fundraising event for United Cerebral Palsy of Oregon & Southwest Washington, visit www.walkrollnrun.org/.

"I don't even have the words to describe how I feel. Being able to help others and to be a part of this family is an honor." -- Suzie Snell

For more information about Micah’s Miles and the charities the organization benefits, visit sites.google.com/site/micahsmilessnell/5-for-5-in-2015 or search “Micah’s Miles” on Facebook.

To participate on the Micah’s Miles team for the Walk, Roll ‘n’ Run, an annual fundraising event for United Cerebral Palsy of Oregon & Southwest Washington, visit www.walkrollnrun.org/.

On Sunday, June 21, Jeff and Micah Snell will toe the line for their fifth marathon in less than three months.

To anyone, this would be considered an impressive accomplishment. It is even more so considering Jeff, Micah’s dad, pushes his 30 pound son in a 40 pound specialty stroller, affectionately named, “Blue Thunder,” because it is more than 6 feet long.

Their marathons are benefitting five different charitable organizations.

Meet the Micah’s Miles team. Micah, 5, has cerebral palsy. He spent 36 days in the NICU and continues to receive intense physical and communication therapy. There are a lot of things he cannot do, but others that he can. One of these is to participate in marathons with his father. Family and friends make up the support crew, a critical part of every race.

Jeff, assistant superintendent at the Camas School District, first got the idea to take Micah with him while training for the inaugural Vancouver U.S.A. Marathon in 2011.

“I don’t even have the words to describe how I feel. Being able to help others and to be a part of this family is an honor.”
— Suzie Snell

“I had always run to keep my sanity and think, and Micah liked to go with me,” he said. “After he got more stable, our family was so appreciative of the help we had, we wanted to do things through Micah for others. We wanted to share his story a bit with the running community, which is so supportive.”

Jeff asked his wife, Suzie, a guidance counselor at Felida Elementary in Vancouver, what she thought of the idea.

“Go for it!” she replied.

Jeff reached out to United Cerebral Palsy of Oregon & Southwest Washington, set up a website and began fundraising. The rest is history. Since that first marathon 4 years ago, he and Micah have toed the line 12 times to do 26.2. “Mighty Micah,” as he is known, and his dad are easily recognizable in their bright orange attire. The color was chosen because Micah can see orange better than other colors.

Although the family launched the Micah’s Miles organization to support families of children with cerebral palsy, they decided to branch out last year to support other non-profit groups.

This year, Micah and Jeff are doing their “5 for 5 in 2015,” campaign, which benefits Marathon Education Partners, TinySuperheros, Make-A-Wish Foundation, All God’s Children and United Cerebral Palsy of Oregon & Southwest Washington.

The marathons Micah and Jeff have run this spring are Yakima Valley, Vernonia, Tacoma and Eugene. Their last one this season will be in Vancouver.

“We realized through social media that the more people who followed Micah, the more we could help others,” Jeff said. “So we started selecting charities that had a tie to Micah in some way.”

Marathon Education Partners was chosen because Micah loves school. TinySuperheroes, which makes capes for children with special needs across the world, sent Micah one.

“As a dad, it was so neat to have an organization recognize your son,” he said. “It meant so much to Micah and to our family.”

In November, the Make-A-Wish Foundation sent the family on an all-expenses-paid vacation to the Disney Aulani Resort on Oahu, where Micah listened to ukulele and Hawaiian music every night and fell asleep to the sounds.

Traveling with Micah, who is in a wheelchair, needs several different medications and is fed through a tube, poses special challenges. However, the Make-A-Wish organization made it much easier.

“It was amazing,” Jeff said. “They got us through security so fast, it was surreal. They took care of everything. This continued throughout the entire vacation.”

He added that it was a nice opportunity for their two older children, 13-year-old twins Mackenzie and Stephen.

“For siblings, having a brother with special needs means you can’t do things sometimes,” Jeff said. “It was really cool for them to be celebrities with their brother for a week.”

Suzie added that it was a time for the family to be together without the usual worries.

“Honestly, when I think about going through airport security with all of Micah’s food and medications, it makes me start to sweat,” she said. “It was absolutely amazing to be able to not worry, and to know that everything was taken care of.”

On Sunday, Micah and Jeff ran the Eugene Marathon to help support All God’s Children, an organization that assists with orphan care, orphan prevention and adoption. Specifically, their fundraising efforts focused on an adoption grant for 7-year-old Lauren from China.

“Like Micah, Lauren also has cerebral palsy, but she has spent her entire life in an orphanage,” Jeff said. “She was abandoned at birth because she has a disability. It is crazy in the world that we live in, that you can be born in one place and have so many opportunities, but if you are born in another, you get none of those chances. We want to give her a chance.”

Their last marathon will benefit United Cerebral Palsy, where their fundraising efforts first began. The organization is partnering with Ainsley’s Angels to build a new racing stroller for Micah, so that the Snells can retire “Blue Thunder.”

“We just run”

Every course is different and has its own unique twists and turns. Jeff has never worried about being able to finish a marathon with Micah, because, as he puts it, “We don’t run fast. It is about the experience. We just run.”

Then he adds, “But we do try to keep them to under four hours. I don’t want Micah to be out there for too long. He has never cried yet, but I don’t want that to happen.”

Jeff and Micah’s favorite marathon is Vancouver U.S.A.

“It’s our hometown run and the Micah’s Miles Team sponsors the mile 8 aid station at Frenchman’s Bar,” Jeff said.

While on a marathon course, Micah will typically take a nap, then wake up to enjoy the air on his face and look at the sights and sounds that accompany every race.

“He seems to be really comfortable in the new chair and enjoys moving,” Jeff said. “If I do a race without him, it feels weird.”

His favorite part about participating in the marathons with his son is the opportunity to share Micah’s story with others, and hearing their stories.

“As a parent, you want your kid to have all kinds of opportunities and dreams,” Jeff said. “We feel Micah has a lot to give the world and this is how we share his joy with others. When you have a special needs child, you get tired of hearing people tell you what you can’t do. When we run, we can go as far as we want. It’s kind of nice to feel like you have something you can do.”

A marathon course is a memorable place for participants, volunteers and spectators. When Suzie watches her husband and son cross the finish line, she describes the moment as “incredibly emotional.”

“It makes me feel so happy that we are able to do this,” she said. “I don’t even have the words to describe how I feel. Being able to help others and to be a part of this family is an honor.”

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