PT program hosts annual 5k

GVL / Gabriella Patti
Grand Valley Physical Therapy student Ashley Vandenberg races with eight year old Keagan Curtis during the Wheel Run Together 5K on Saturday. Keagans parents follow behind to support their son.

GVL / Gabriella Patti Grand Valley Physical Therapy student Ashley Vandenberg races with eight year old Keagan Curtis during the “Wheel Run Together” 5K on Saturday. Keagan’s parents follow behind to support their son.

gabriella patti

The Grand Valley State University physical therapy program united with the local organization, Alternatives in Motion, to host about 150 participants in the 18th annual Wheel Run Together 5k on Saturday.

Alternatives in Motion is a nonprofit organization that provides mobility devices for people who are unable to afford them by their own means.

“This race works well for us because it is with the physical therapy students,” said Matt Chapman, the interim executive director for Alternatives in Motion. “We work very closely with physical therapists to make sure that the wheelchair is adjusted and properly fitting the individual.”

The race was held in ideal weather with a wide range of competitors including hand­cyclists, cyclists and runners, who started outside of the Kirkhof Center and looped around the Allendale Campus.

The race has become a tradition hosted by second-year physical therapy students every April for the last 18 years.

Jimi Minnema from Jenison, Mich., took first in the male division with a time of 16:10. Betsy Graney, a GVSU student and a member of the women’s track and field team, finished first for the females with the time 18:52.

“This is always one of our really fun, annual, easy fundraisers,” Chapman said.

Megan Kaiser was one of the six student coordinators who has worked throughout the school year to make this event possible.

“This event is really important to me personally because I went into physical therapy to be able to to help increase the functional mobility of my patients,” Kaiser said. “Alternatives in Motion is an organization that helps do that by giving them wheelchairs and other adaptive equipment.”

This year, myTEAM TRIUMPH participated in the race. The athletic ride-­along program makes it possible for people with disabilities to participate in races and other endurance events.

“They call the individual who rides stroller with the disability the ‘captain,’ and the people who push them are the ‘angels,’” Chapman said. “The experience is all about the captain. The captain gets the bib, the time, and they get the experience of participating in a 5k.”

Kaiser said that by including myTEAM TRIUMPH, the organizers were able to include a greater area of the community.

Third-year physical therapy students Emily King, Ashley VandenBerg and Brett Cain joined together with eight-year-old Keagan Curtis to participate in the race. The students are conducting research with the physical therapy department to figure out how to use power mobility as an intervention for children with disabilities.

“Keagan is working with us teaching us how to use the power mobility trainer,” VandenBerg said. “Keagan asked us if we wanted to do a race with him, and we said that we would want to come to the wheel run and run with him. He is our captain.”

Chapman anticipates that when the numbers come in, this will be the most successful year to date.

“For us it is important because we rely entirely on donations,” Chapman said. “Donations of equipment and donations of cash so that we can afford the repairs. Without fundraisers and events like this, we could not help the people that we do.”

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