Mom and son with cerebral palsy race together

Published:

By JOSE MARTINEZ

Scripps Howard News Service

OLLALLA, Wash. -- When Vickie Hoefer sets off on her daily 3-mile neighborhood run, her son is keeping pace beside her.

For most, the run wouldn't be much of a challenge. But for Terry, a 19-year-old with cerebral palsy who relies on a motorized wheelchair, it's an exercise of perseverance and will.

Vickie started running to get healthy. It wasn't long before Terry was asking to join her.

The runs at first were formidable, with Terry only being able to ride alongside his mom for about six blocks. Being in the wheelchair for long periods put stress on certain parts of his body resulting in pain. Operating the wheelchair's directional joystick for long stretches also was difficult.

But Terry was building up his own endurance. Today, the pair participate in 5K runs, with their eyes set on a marathon in 2013.

"She's kind of slow," Terry joked. "(The wheelchair) isn't so slow anymore."

Olympic Pharmacy in Gig Harbor, Wash., has helped Terry by making modifications to his wheelchair, including giving him new tires and adding an extra battery. The wheelchair also has been modified to go faster so he can keep pace.

"Nobody can believe that we're doing this," Terry said. "Not even nurses or doctors can believe this."

As the pair got training, they decided their runs could make a bigger impact. After volunteering at the Gig Harbor/Peninsula FISH Food Bank, Terry suggested that the runs shouldn't just benefit mom and son, but send some help to the food bank. They're hoping those who are inspired by their marathon training will donate to the food bank.

"We don't really care where people donate, as long as they donate," Vickie said.

When he's not accompanying his mom on a run, Terry is sending out food bank-addressed envelopes for donations.

It's not the first time the family has sought to shatter stereotypes of those with disabilities.

In 2010, the Hoefer family pushed the Washington State University Extension Program in Kitsap County to allow Terry and brother David, who is autistic, to compete in the 4-H exhibitions at the Kitsap County Fair.

"It was a fight because (4-H) didn't see it necessary to accommodate special needs," Vickie said. "But we had a lot of community support behind it."

Training with her son has given Vickie a new source of inspiration.

"When I'm running I'm thinking of Terry's disability," Vickie said. "If he's running without complaining, then there's no reason I should be either."

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