Who He Runs 4
It’s too hot. It’s too cold. Well, I ate too much. I haven’t eaten enough; I won’t have the energy. I’m not a morning person. Night? It’s just too dangerous to go at night. I’m sick. I have to do laundry and I’m also in the middle of a very committed six-hour “Game of Thrones” binge. I’ll just go tomorrow. Or maybe on Monday. Yes, I will – it’s my New Year’s resolution. I’ll go on Monday, January 1, 2018.
These are some of the reasons why we tell ourselves that we, under no circumstances, will be subjecting our bodies to the common cardiovascular exercise known as running.
While some of us look for excuses that we can’t, Chad Nevils always thinks about why he can. His “why” is 14-year-old Kelley Cupp. Kelley has cerebral palsy, epilepsy, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and she uses a ventilator at night. She cannot walk or run, so Nevils runs for her.
Nevils started running a couple of years ago. As a physical therapy assistant at St. Luke’s University Hospital and a tutor at Lehigh Carbon Community College’s physical therapy assistant program, Nevils didn’t have a lot of spare time, but he had a goal. He wanted to donate $1 dollar for every mile he ran to Penn State Children’s Hospital’s Four Diamonds, a fund for childhood cancer patients and research. Last year, he ran more than 800 miles.
Then Nevils found out about Who I Run 4, a nonprofit that was launched in 2013 by Tim Boyle. It was through Who I Run 4 that he met Kelley, who lives in Ohio. The organization pairs athletes of all levels and kinds – runners, walkers, yogis, triathletes – with children and adults who have physical, mental, and developmental special needs and are unable to participate in athletic activities themselves. After the athletes are matched with a buddy, they dedicate their workouts to them. Nevils sends the medals, trophies, and gift certificates that he receives for winning races to Kelley, as well as pictures, videos, and frequent messages.
“Kelley is like a superstar,” Nevils says. His favorite running memory is the day that he found out Who I Run 4 had finally matched him with a buddy after a six-month wait. “I finally had that beautiful face to run for,” he says. “It was the start of a whole new journey.”
In fact, Nevils’ dedication to Kelley is what got him through the Lehigh Valley Health Network Via Marathon last year, which he ran with a picture of Kelley on the back of his t-shirt. Nevils injured his leg during mile four, and a few miles later, it gave out and he collapsed. No one would have blamed him for stopping, but, with Kelley in mind, Nevils persisted and finished all 26.2 miles of the marathon.
“Every time I finish a race, it’s for her,” he says. “That means so much more than anything else. A lot of people focus on times when they’re racing, but my only goal is to run fast enough to qualify for the Boston Marathon – because I want to share that experience with Kelley.”
“I’ve changed a lot as a person, because all I see is positivity now. I look at some of the stuff in my life, and I’m really blessed with a lot of things…”
– Chad Nevils
Earlier this year in March, Kelley and her mother, Jan Kaye, made a surprise visit to St. Luke’s so that Kelley could finally meet the man face-to-face who had been pounding pavement in her honor. Nevils, who had no idea she was coming, says that getting to meet her was surreal.
“In a lot of ways, it was like meeting your hero because she has changed who I am for the better,” Nevils says. “I’ve changed a lot as a person, because all I see is positivity now. I look at some of the stuff in my life, and I’m really blessed with a lot of things, when Kelley is just trying to get through the day with these obstacles. It just shows you how much can be done. We kind of limit ourselves.”
He also describes himself as “nervous” during Kelley’s stay, worried about her health because she had just spent January in the ICU. It was an 11-hour trip and she wasn’t able to use her ventilator at the hotel, but Kelley’s visit went without any complications. “She’s this whole medical miracle,” Nevils says.
He plans to see her again in September when he visits Ohio for the 10th annual Cincinnati Walk for Kids, sponsored by Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, at the Cincinnati Zoo. Nevils is going to bring a special-needs stroller and take her with him so that the pair can clock some miles together for the first time.
Nevils, who says he used to be a conservative guy – “I wouldn’t even take my shirt off when I was mowing the lawn,” he says – thanks Kelley for also bringing out his sense of humor and a sillier side. He routinely races in outfits like knee-high rainbow socks or a tutu, hoping the pictures and videos he sends to her will make her smile.
Next year, Nevils hopes to run 2,000 miles for the Four Diamonds fund. “I’m gonna have to work extra to pay for that,” he says, laughing.
To learn more about Who I Run 4 or to get involved, visit whoirun4.com.