Navy veteran James Ridgeway is not letting his 24-year-old daughter’s wheelchair hinder her from experiencing the joys in life.
During the Rock ‘N’ Roll Series’ Half Marathon weekend in Las Vegas, Ridgeway and his daughter Gaby could be seen tackling the track in style. In an interview at the event, the military trained father opened up about their journey to Las Vegas and the moment that started it all: when James came home from deployment and went for a jog with his son, he didn’t want Gaby to be upset that she couldn’t join in because of her wheelchair usage.
Gaby was born with a rare genetic called Oculocerebrocutaneous (OCC) syndrome, which effects the body’s ability to function both intellectually and physically. In addition, she was born with cerebral palsy and scoliosis, both of which have challenged her speech and mental development. Because her ability to stand is limited, wheelchair usage is necessary for Gaby. However, this did not stop her from wanting to go on runs with her father.
“She can’t put sentences together. She has vocabulary words, but she’ll tell you when she’s upset,” he explained. “We would go out on the weekends and as soon as she hears somebody leave, she wants to know where you’re going. We would come home from a run and she would be visibly irritated and we asked her, ‘Are you mad?'”
“[She said] ‘Yeah.’ ‘Why are you mad? Because we go running without you?’ ‘Yeah,’ ” the father continued. “So I asked her, ‘Do you want to run with us?’ and she’s like, ‘Yeah!’ I was like, “Oh, wow. How do I do that?’ “
The Ridgeway family discovers the program ‘Ainsley’s Angels’
Upon investigation, the Ridgeway family discovered Ainsley’s Angels, an organization that focuses on inclusion for activities like biking and running. Through their organization, James Ridgeway was able to get his daughter a specific wheelchair that would make participating in races possible.
“I’ve always wanted to do a half marathon and we were just testing the limits of how long she could [on runs and ] really enjoy it,” he said. “We got a speaker, put that on the chair and that was it. She’s a music lover, loves to dance, loves to scream her favorite song and that was the start of it.”
Dedicated to his craft, James Ridgeway also discussed training through all sorts of weather and terrain to ensure his daughter’s needs are met.
“I train in the winter months without her,” James shared. “It’s too cold. I try to do most of the training with [the wheelchair] because that’s going to make it easier. If I train by myself, it’s too easy to go faster, so I can’t judge how my progress is.”
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