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A local running duo made national headlines last year trailblazing a path for runners to push wheelchairs in the Disney Glass Slipper Challenge. Now the father-daughter team is back at it again this year raising funds for a more local cause.
Lee Eaton math teacher Dan Boyle has been running with his wheel-chair bound daughter Courteney, 16, for four years in marathon events. Last year, the duo made headlines after Run Disney changed its policy to allow runners to push wheelchairs in the Disney Princess Half Marathon Weekend following Dan's request to push his daughter during the race. Until last year Disney had not permitted runners to push wheelchairs in the race for safety reasons, but held separate events for wheelchair runners who were self-propelled. However, after Dan wrote a letter and signed a waiver, the event manager for Run Disney contacted the Boyles and invited them to participate. Last year the duo raised $11,000 for Rina, a woman in El Salvador who suffers from the same disabilities as Courteney.
Courteney was born with Moebius Syndrome, which is a neurological disorder where the brain stem is underdeveloped. She is fed through an IV at night but Dan said she understands a lot when she is spoken to.
After the Boyles' participated in the 19.3 mile race last year, the family received numerous calls of recognition and was even awarded a $500 grant from Disney for Citizenship, and an award/grant from Mizuno sporting goods in conjunction with Fleet Feet stores. Christine Boyle, said in a video for Team Boyle, the non-profit organization the family started, the funds were used to start up the 501c3 organization.
"After our experience last year, we realized this adventure, this journey we are on can impact others," Christine said.
Dan added the reason for the organization's tag line 'Run with a Purpose' is that the fundraising is more about giving back than it is gaining recognition.
"While the awards are very special, my wife and I have always worked to instill a belief in our children about giving back," Dan said. "While Courteney has multiple, severe medical disabilities, we want her to know the importance of this fact."
This year fundraising efforts were in full swing to help fund Challenger Baseball, a division of Little League that enables boys and girls with physical and mental challenges. The league plays games during the summer in Brecksville and this year it's northeast Ohio's turn to host the state tournament in Parma July 28-30.
Dan said the cost to put on the tournament is between $50,000 and $60,000 and brings around 600 special needs families to the area including the 60 families in the local chapter. He added there are a handful of participants from Nordonia Hills. The Boyles have been involved with Challenger for seven years.
"This year, and we hope going forward, we hope to raise money for groups that support the special needs community locally, whether national or local organizations," Dan said. "Challenger is a national organization, but it is up to each local chapter to raise their own money for the league."
Last year the duo raised $12,000 and shattered their $5,000 goal in less than 48 hours. As of press time Team Boyle has raised $6,400 but is still holding fundraisers such as a polar jump into Lake Erie, and eating triple atomic wings at Quaker Steak and Lube and running in the Cleveland Half Marathon. The money raised will help cover the costs of the event for anything from field rentals to trophies or t-shirts.
"We want to run with Courteney but at the same time bring awareness to the special needs community," Dan said. "We believe that we have an insight into that community that others may not and so we want to bring light to any needs there may be."
Dan added the family has already registered for the 2018 Disney Princess Half-Marathon Weekend.
"While I wouldn't mind mixing it up among other Disney races, Courteney is a princess, so we are sticking with it," Dan said.
Briana Barker: 330-541-9432