LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) — We are less than a week away from the Little Rock marathon, meaning lots of runners are cramming in some last minute training.
But this year, some special runners are participating for the first time. Ainsley’s Angels gives people with special needs the opportunity to run races across the country.
The group started in Arkansas in the fall. Six people with special needs will be running in the Little Rock marathon Sunday.
"We never get an opportunity to do this stuff you know. Because like we're just here,” 14-year-old Carissa Garner said.
Garner was born with spina bifida, a birth defect of her spinal cord. She is one of the six running on Sunday, March 4.
"It's fun. It's fast. Right up my alley,” she said. "I'm just going to yelling whoever is pushing me like ‘go faster!’"
Her mom, Pamela Garner, said Ainsley’s Angels gives her daughter hope.
"To know Carissa is going to be in the Little Rock Marathon is a dream come true. I never considered it a possibility,” Pamela said. “Finding out that she can do this through Ainsley’s Angels and have an athlete runner actually take her and let her experience this for herself is just amazing. It fills a momma’s heart.”
Jarrett Banks started the program in Arkansas last year and said the program is all about joy.
"Our mission is to give the joy of being in a race or just being able to run to people who never dreamed of having that opportunity,” Banks said.
He said after running one race with someone with special needs, he will never run a race alone, again.
"It's giving joy to somebody like [Carissa] who will be in her very first half marathon this Sunday in Little Rock,” Banks said.
And with just a little less than a week away from the big race, runners like Carissa are already looking forward to crossing the finish line.
"I just want to thank Ainsley's Angels for the opportunity for me to feel like everybody else,” Carissa said.
Ainsley’s Angels is looking for more Arkansas runners who would like to join along in future marathons. The club is also searching for sponsors who can help buy more chairs, so more runners can tag along.
To donate, visit the Ainsley's Angels website.