Allied Health Students Partner with Youth for Marathon Run

Submitted on April 24, 2013 at 12:51 PM

A marathon is a challenge for any athlete. It's even more so when you're trying to sync your running with a partner. Physical Therapist Assistant (PTA) students at Volunteer State Community College are doing just that, and in the process learning a lot about their future profession. It's called a Service Learning project. The college students are teaming up with two nonprofit organizations to partner with disabled youth in the Music City Marathon. They'll run with, and push, the youth in wheelchairs along the course for the marathon and half-marathon.

"All of these students are pushed to do something they haven't before - a marathon," said Run, Walk, Wheel and Roll (RWWR) organizer Zac Koffler of Nashville. "It's one thing to run and it's another to push someone while running. The students will be the arms and legs of these young kids."

Koffler is friends with Vol State student Ryan Lombardi. The two came up with the idea for the partnership when the PTA class was considering class projects for the year, under the supervision of PTA program director Carolyn Moore. The Vol State students teamed-up with Koffler's nonprofit group, another organization called Able Youth, and students at the Harris Hillman School in Nashville. They recently gathered to train for the big run. The kids associated with the nonprofits have a variety of conditions and those conditions are ones that the future physical therapist assistants will likely see in their professional life. It makes a fun event also a true learning experience.

"Zac and I talked and we knew this could afford us an opportunity for training as PTAs, by working with kids we may be treating down the road in our career," said Lombardi, who is from Nolensville.

"It's one thing to see a diagnosis in a book," said PTA student Heather Stiles of Cookeville. "Seeing them in person makes a big difference. It helps put everything in perspective."

Nine year-old Faith Everingham is a bit shy when asked about the run. She has Spina Bifida, a developmental disorder that has led to the need for a wheelchair and close medical attention. Her mother Christi says Faith is used to helping people in the medical community.

"She's done model therapy at Belmont for students. It's good for them to learn. She has things you don't see every day. It's good for the students to interact with different kids with different issues."

Savannah Miller has already taken part in a marathon, rolling herself part of the way, and getting help as well. "It makes me feel like I can try my hardest," she said of running with a partner.

The students practice along a paved path at Sevier Park in Nashville. While the running is important to build trust and a rhythm, just as important are the smiles and conversations shared.

"The kids see us more as people," said PTA student Dan Fiste of Sparta. "It's more than just a patient and healthcare provider. It's about caring for people."

For more information on the PTA program at Vol State visit www.volstate.edu/PTA


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