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By Melanie and Anna Bilskemper
Anna Grace is 10 1/2 years old. She has a rare genetic mutation called Rett Syndrome. Rett Syndrome makes her unable to use her muscles purposefully on her own. Since Anna is unable to speak, she uses eye gaze to communicate with us. When I asked Anna if she would like to join her sister in Girls On The Run, with a sparkle in her eyes, she gave me an immediate "yes" response. At each practice she was determined to meet a walking goal. She also set a running goal for me to complete (pushing Anna in her jogger).
I have never seen Anna work as hard as she did at GOTR practices. She would increase her walking goal with each practice and met or exceeded it every time. At one practice Anna wanted to attempt walking an entire lap. With her teammates cheering her on, she set out. One lap was about 4 times the distance of her previous goals. About half way through she started to get weak; I asked if she would like to turn around, she indicated "no." Another 10 steps later we took a break; through tears she indicated she wanted to continue. Her teammates and coaches were so excited, they cheered her on every step of the way. With their help, determination, and a few tears, she made it 3/4 of the distance! We were all incredibly excited and proud of her!
Super super girl power!
After a fantastic season, Anna was able to walk across the finish line of our first 5K race together!!! Although she was exhausted, she is so proud of her accomplishment!
Anna and Averie high-five at the finish line of our Fall 2015 5k
I asked Anna a series of questions about GOTR to find out what she loved about it. Here are the things she loved the most:
Anna and dad tackle the hill at the 5k
Anna, her sister Averie and I had a blast participating in Girls on the Run! It is an experience and activity that we will all participate in again. We want to say a huge thank you to the coaches Rhea, Amy and Nicole and all the behind-the-scenes staff for bringing this wonderful organization to our school!!
Melanie and Anna Bilskemper