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Gotta Run: Ainsley’s Angels are back today at Winter Flight

A few years back, I heard from a former running client about her involvement with Ainsley’s Angels. Allison Tuck’s son is handicapped and couldn’t run but he loved the environment around race day. Allison wanted to know if we would allow wheelchairs, specifically a special kind of racing chair, in the event.

We liked the idea so much that the one chair grew to as many as six in our races and even more in some others the Angels have attended locally.

Ainsley’s Angels of America was founded by retired U.S. Marine Major Kim “Rooster” Rossiter, Ainsley’s dad. He noticed that when she went for her first jog during a local road race in 2008, she gave a radiant wind-induced smile that anyone would envy. In an instant, running provided the family with a therapeutic means to fight the devastation associated with learning and trying to live with the fact that sweet Ainsley had a terminal illness that would eventually take her to heaven in February 2016. Today, her incredible legacy lives on, and Ainsley’s Angels of America has grown to over 70 cities and 33 states.

Local Ambassador Lauren Bruce said, “In the Triad, we roll with nearly 50 Angel riders, 22 racing chairs and 70 Angel runners of all ages, paces, and backgrounds now celebrating three years of inclusion, education and advocacy. We aim to ensure everyone can experience endurance events and build awareness about America’s special needs community through inclusion in all aspects of life. Our Angel riders are our purpose and inspiration, and I like to say that we take riders from the sidelines to across finish lines. On race day, we fit each rider for a specialized racing chair and pair them with runners who volunteer to lend their legs so they may roll with the wind. Our runners and riders meet as strangers but leave as family.”

Lauren has recently assumed Ambassador responsibility for the Triad Angels, which includes the Rowan County area. She said, “I have always been an avid runner, and I first saw Ainsley’s Angels at a race in Jacksonville, N.C., about five years ago. I was instantly intrigued. When I moved to the area, I heard that the Triad was just getting started, so I immediately signed on to help however I could. Since my very first race, I have had the honor of being pulled by our Angel riders in multiple distances from 5K to marathon, and even in the 2019 Marine Corps Marathon as an official charity partner with Ainsley’s Angels. I stepped into the role of local ambassador in 2020 and am absolutely thrilled and excited to continue building our community and sharing the pure mission of Ainsley’s Angels. You don’t have to be an elite runner to join our family, or even a runner at all. We welcome all gifts and talents from race day logistics and setup to community outreach and more.”

Four Angel teams, always named for the rider, will compete today. Team Logan is a father and son duo, hailing from the Catawba Valley with multiple Boston Marathon qualifications and hopefully a 26.2-mile journey there in 2022. Team Ethan recently completed a marathon in honor of his fellow Special Olympics North Carolina athletes. You know he is enjoying the race when he is relaxed enough to comfortably sleep in his chair, “Blaze.” Team Gabe is a first-time team, and we cannot wait to see them roll with the wind. Team Matthew will be one of our fastest teams on the course, so keep an eye out for them.

For 2021, Lauren’s goals are to keep rolling safely and continue growing the Angel family with new riders, runners and guardian angels. She said, “We cannot wait for the safe return of more races and events. We hope to see you roll with us. Visit ainsleysangels.org or email nctriad@ainsleysangels.org to join our family.”

About 300 runners of all ages and abilities will also compete this afternoon, benefitting Rowan Helping Ministries, in the 38th Annual New Sarum Brewing Winter Flight 8K/5K and Fun Run at the Millbridge Ruritan Building at 690 Sloan Road, Mt. Ulla. Race day registration is available from noon to 1:45 p.m.

For more information on today’s race and others upcoming, go to www.salisburyrowanrunners.org .

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