Nine-year-old girl with cerebral palsy takes part in kids race

Nine-year-old girl with cerebral palsy takes part in kids race

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Runners in all shapes, sizes and colors got ready to give it their all. Runners in all shapes, sizes and colors got ready to give it their all.
Supporters from Greenback cheered Athena on along the way. Supporters from Greenback cheered Athena on along the way.
"It's hard to explain, but my heart's just blessed," Athena's mother, Regina, said. "It's hard to explain, but my heart's just blessed," Athena's mother, Regina, said.

By GENE PATTERSON
6 News Anchor/Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - There is something exciting about a foot race.

Whether you're a seasoned veteran looking for a personal best or a first timer looking just to finish, there is an energy that is hard to explain.

That's especially true with children.

Despite the cold and the snow, hundreds of children turned out on a recent Saturday at the Knoxville Zoo for the first leg of the Covenant Kids Run "Marathon."

Runners in all shapes, sizes and colors got ready to give it their all. Parents and volunteers made sure everyone had a good time. 

Among the dedicated is Athena Owenby, a young lady from Greenback with cerebral palsy.

"She was born four and a half months early and she wasn't expected to make it, but she's made it nine years now," said Athena's mother, Regina.

This is Athena's first race. She's here because her special ed teacher, Penny McKee, felt it would be good experience for the young girl who likes being around people.

"Athena is one of my sweethearts in class," McKee said. "She is nine years old and we are working on learning to manipulate our wheelchair and roll ourself around and get around by ourself."

Also in the crowd, South Doyle Junior Brian Moreno an ROTC cadet who was enjoying himself despite the cold.

"It's been fun. It was supposed to snow at noon, but it's been snowing and I brought shorts instead of long pants," he said.

The best part of the run, which because of the conditions turned into a walk, was that time was not a factor.

"We're just working on participation," said race coordinator Jason Altman. "We don't time the kids, we just want as many kids as possible to come out and participate in the event."

And there is an incentive. The school's represented competed for prize money.

But that was lost on the kids. They were just happy being outdoors and moving their bodies.

And young Athena, though camera-shy, reportedly had a good time, too. After all, she had her teacher and her friends around her.

And at the finish line, dozens of supporters from Greenback cheered her on.

"It's a very good social event," McKee said. "She loves being around people. She loves to see other kids. She gets excited, so this is a great special event for her."

And what about mom?

"It's hard to explain, but my heart's just blessed," she said.

And that is the Spirit of East Tennessee.

More on the Covenant Kids Run "Marathon" is available on the race website.


If you know someone who you believe is an example of the Spirit of East Tennessee, e-mail me at gpatterson@wate.com.

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