On two legs or three wheels

Ev­ery­one crosses the fin­ish line at in­clu­sion race

Newark Post - - Front Page - By JOSH SHAN­NON jshan­non@ches­pub.com

One de­lighted in see­ing the po­lice of­fi­cers sta­tioned through­out the race course. An­other jok­ingly “trash-talked” the women push­ing him. An­other couldn’t stop smil­ing as her grand­son pushed her in the race.

But de­spite their spe­cial needs, all eight got to ex­pe­ri­ence the thrill of cross­ing the fin­ish line of the Fu­sion 5 and Dime race, thanks to spe­cial rac­ing chairs un­veiled Satur­day by the newly cre­ated Fu­sion In­clu­sion or­ga­ni­za­tion.

An off­shoot of the Main Street gym Fu­sion Fit­ness, the or­ga­ni­za­tion works to pro­mote mak­ing ex­er­cise and ath­let­ics ac­ces­si­ble to all.

“The idea is to give ev­ery­one the chance to par­tic­i­pate,” said Steve Sinko, a per­sonal trainer and the pres­i­dent of Fu­sion In­clu­sion. “It’s to­tally re­ward­ing on both sides.”

The group has three adap­tive rac­ing chairs, which are spe­cially de­signed wheel­chairs with three wheels. Two more are on the way. The chairs cost ap­prox­i­mately $4,600 and have been paid for by spon­sors and in­di­vid­ual do­na­tions.

“To see this grow and peo­ple in Delaware ac­cept it is in­cred­i­ble,” said Deb Bue­naga, who has been cham­pi­oning

in­clu­sion since 2012 when she took up run­ning as a way to be ac­tive with her son, Pre­ston, who has mi­to­chon­drial dis­ease. She has run nu­mer­ous races in sev­eral states while push­ing Pre­ston, now 17, in an adap­tive chair.

“I let him pull me,” Bue­naga said. “I just run with my heart.”

Their big­gest run­ning achieve­ment came in March when they com­pleted a marathon in Vir­ginia Beach, Va., dur­ing a rag­ing nor’easter.

“It was the hard­est thing I’ve ever done,” she said. “But when I came to a hill, he looked up and said, ‘Mommy, you can do it.’ That made me run faster.”

Her push to in­crease in­clu­sion lo­cally came af­ter a Delaware race de­nied her re­quest to run with Pre­ston’s chair. She con­tacted Fu­sion owner Nic DeCaire, who she knew from a pre­vi­ous char­i­ta­ble en­deavor. DeCaire has since or­ga­nized two In­clu­sion Means Ev­ery­one 5Ks.

How­ever, the mis­sion of Fu­sion In­clu­sion is to in­cor­po­rate in­clu­sion into all races, not just spe­cial ones in­tended for that pur­pose. Ev­ery race spon­sored by Fu­sion in­cludes cat­e­gories for adap­tive rac­ing chairs and strollers.

“I don’t want any­one to ever be turned down,” Bue­naga said.

On Satur­day, ap­prox­i­mately 300 run­ners braved op­pres­sive heat and hu­mid­ity for the in­au­gu­ral Fu­sion 5 and Dime race, which raised money for the in­clu­sive Pre­ston’s Play­ground be­ing built at the Ne­wark Reser­voir. Eight adap­tive ath­letes were pushed by fam­ily mem­bers or vol­un­teers, and two peo­ple com­peted in hand cy­cles. The Fu­sion In­clu­sion chairs were sup­ple­mented by adap­tive chairs bor­rowed from other groups.

The race – which had a 5-mile and 10-mile course – started on Main Street, snaked its way through Devon and the Binns and uti­lized the Hall and Pomeroy trails be­fore end­ing on Acad­emy Street. The race co­in­cided with Ne­wark’s Food and Brew Fes­ti­val, and DeCaire hopes it even­tu­ally be­comes a des­ti­na­tion race at­tract­ing out-of-town run­ners to Ne­wark for the week­end.

One run­ner who trav­eled for the race was Bart Yasso, a Beth­le­hem, Pa., man who serves as “Chief Run­ning Of­fi­cer” for Run­ner’s World mag­a­zine. Yasso trav­els all over the world to run and is known for hav­ing com­pleted a marathon on ev­ery con­ti­nent, in­clud­ing Antarc­tica.

He pushed Hay­den Sch­len­ner, 8, in an adap­tive rac­ing chair and called the ex­pe­ri­ence “ful­fill­ing.”

“It’s one thing to go af­ter your own dream, but when you’re push­ing some­one, you’re do­ing it through some­one else’s eyes,” Yasso said. “It re­minds you how lucky we are to do what we want to do phys­i­cally.”

He said Hay­den en­joyed in­ter­act­ing with the po­lice of­fi­cers block­ing traf­fic for the race.

“We went from one po­lice car to the next,” he said, laugh­ing.

Yasso’s friend, Mike Con- nelly, pushed Nick Scar­berry, 21, in the race. Con­nelly’s two late chil­dren had spe­cial needs, and he said he wishes he’d been able to run a race with them. The ex­pe­ri­ence was in­spi­ra­tional, he said.

“You feel like you’re part of them and see why they’re so ex­cited to be mov­ing like that,” Con­nelly said.

Michael Smith pushed his grand­mother, Bar­bara, who was an avid run­ner and walker be­fore sev­eral strokes left her in a wheel­chair.

“It was def­i­nitely amaz­ing,” Smith said. “I haven’t seen her smile like that in a long time.”

Friends Ashley Bar­nas and Kelly Bothum teamed up to push Will Lo­gan along the 10-mile course. They met the “sassy” 9-year-old at a pre­vi­ous race and knew they wanted to vol­un­teer to push him.

“We love Will. He re­ally trash-talked us,” Bothum said, laugh­ing, men­tion­ing one-lin­ers like “Are we run­ning or walk­ing?”

“We would not have done 10 miles if not for him,” she added. “He’s the mo­ti­va­tor.”

Bar­nas said push­ing Will made the race more en­joy­able.

“We can’t stop smil­ing through the sweat and tears,” she said.

NE­WARK POST PHOTO BY JOSH SHAN­NON

Michael Smith pushes his grand­mother, Bar­bara Smith, in the Fu­sion Five and Dime race on Satur­day morn­ing.

NE­WARK POST PHOTO BY JOSH SHAN­NON

James Beard­s­ley and Deb­bie Walsh head to­ward the fin­ish line of the Fu­sion 5 and Dime race.

NE­WARK POST PHOTO BY JOSH SHAN­NON

Mike Con­nelly and Bart Yasso push rid­ers down Main Street in adap­tive run­ning chairs.

NE­WARK POST PHOTO BY JOSH SHAN­NON

State Sen. Ni­cole Poore pushes her son, Michael, who has cere­bral palsy.

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