Jodi Stoner thought she was going to run the Las Vegas marathon with a friend in 2014. Her friend introduced her to Shaun Evans, and the two of them pushed his son Shamus through the 26-mile course. "I hadn't trained to push. When we crossed the finish line, my husband had tears in his eyes. I was crying. I told him, 'This has to happen in Florida!'"
Stoner and her husband spent many months with their their home and garage full of wheelchairs until the New York Yankees and the Steinbrenner family bought Ainsley's Angels a trailer. It carries 27 chairs with room to grow. This year, Ainsley's Angels are branching out to Pensacola--their fifth Florida city following Tampa, Jacksonville, Orlando and Ft. Lauderdale.
When Jodi founded the Ainsley's Angels southeast region, she dreamed of having a Hoyt conversion chair. These chairs adapt for pulling or pushing so they can compete in triathalons, too. "Those chairs are $4,000. FITniche has given the only conversion chair," she said. This year, the FITniche chair went to Em Hughes and her family. "They're all runners who train with Em. It's a beautiful pink chair," Stoner said.
Jodi regularly runs with Katie Thompson, a young woman with cerebral palsy she met while interpreting for hearing impaired students in area schools. "We lost touch and reconnected over FB. Katie would come and watch me push. Now she races with me. She gets to wear a race bib, she grabs a water at all the water stations and she throws the cup! She gets a medal at end."
It's not just the medal. It's the mettle. Jodi and Katie qualified to run the Boston Marathon. "I did way better than I thought because the conditions were horrible. Freezing rain the whole way. We were 10 minutes off our personal record."
Interested in trying on a pair of wings and gifting a run? Contact Jodi. Jodi says there's no obligation. "Come run. Try it. If it's not your thing, no problem. No one's ever quit!"