The Turkey Trot, hosted by the Center for Human Services, is in its 11th year and organizers are working to be more inclusive for this year’s race.
The annual 5K run/walk is hosted Thanksgiving morning at County Distributing in Sedalia and CHS is working with Ainsley’s Angels of America to partner runners with people who have limited mobility.
According to the Ainsley’s Angels website, the organization aims to ensure everyone can experience endurance events and builds awareness about America’s special needs community. The charity’s leaders “believe everyone deserves to be included.”
It was started about 10 years ago in Louisiana by Kim “Rooster” and Lori Rossiter, the parents of namesake Ainsley, who was diagnosed with Infantile Neuroaxonal Dystrophy (INAD) just before turning 4. The website states there are less than 20 active cases of INAD in America, a rare terminal illness that slowly causes paralysis. There is no cure or treatment.
Rooster, a major in the U.S. Marine Corps, took his daughter for her first local race in 2008 and “she gave a radiant wind-induced smile that anyone would envy,” creating the inspiration for Ainsley’s Angels. Since then, the organization has spread to 30 states to advocate for inclusion in memory of Ainsley, who died in 2016.
Mitch Tiffany, the central Missouri ambassador for Ainsley’s Angels, recently moved to Sedalia for his job with Nucor. In addition to typical things like furniture and clothes, Tiffany’s move from Alabama to Missouri also included a trailer full of 24 adaptive racing chairs (known in Ainsley’s Angels as chariots) to use in 5Ks and marathons.
Tiffany’s interest in Ainsley’s Angels started when he asked friends if he could run in honor of their son, who has Cerebral Palsy, in a charity run for United Cerebral Palsy of Northwest Alabama. The next year, the son was invited to participate in the race with Tiffany, where they met a group from Ainsley’s Angels. After signing up with the group he pushed another young man in a race and was hooked.
“The excitement and the thrill of the young man I pushed was enough to make me want to help others,” he said. “My dad has MS so I’ve been close to special needs folks my whole entire life. It was a way for me to give back, that got my start.”
Tiffany was involved in the Huntsville/Decatur running community and was able to find fellow runners to get involved with Ainsley’s Angels. The group continued to grow and now that he’s in Sedalia, he wants to bring Ainsley’s Angels with him. Tiffany has participated in numerous races and also did public speaking engagements with various civic groups, something he’d like to continue. He also takes chair sponsorships and donations to cover entry fees for participants.
“The families build such a rapport with the people in this community, it’s not just runners – special education, awareness, public speaking,” he said. “It’s not just about runners pushing people, there’s a lot more to it to make sure everyone is included.”
As an entity that also advocates for those with disabilities, CHS Director of Development Susan Mergen said a partnership with Ainsley’s Angels just made sense. A conversation with Tiffany kicked off the effort.
“He wondered if we had a race and about the center. I told him about the trot and he was looking for an organization he could partner with because he brought a trailer full of wheelchairs specialized to be pushed in 5K/10K runs,” she said. “I told him he stopped at the right place because we have a run, we raise money for people with disabilities and we have the means to find the people who are mobility challenged.”
Mergen said she hopes to have 10 pairs in the race and is also looking for sponsors to cover the participants’ entry fees.