Erin O'Connell, left, Toledo Roadrunners volunteer coordinator, Jessy Meeker, and Mark Armstrong push Robin Hanna Mower on the first leg of the 3-mile run during the weekly Second Sole of Toledo run at Levis Commons in Perrysburg. Mrs. Mower will participate in Sunday’s race.
Robin Hanna Mower has jumped out of airplanes from 14,000 feet and toured the country in a recreational vehicle to draw attention to Lou Gehrig’s disease.
The next chapter in her campaign to bring awareness to the disease, which has left her unable to walk and use her arms, will be Sunday’s Medical Mutual Glass City Marathon.
With the assistance of volunteers, Mrs. Mower, 48, of Toledo will be pushed in a specialized wheelchair for the 26.2-mile-course, allowing her to reach a goal she set before she was diagnosed in 2009 with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.
“I am accomplishing a dream that I have been wanting to do for a very long time,” she said. “I can’t wait for my dream to happen.”
A fatal, incurable neurodegenerative disease, ALS, named for New York Yankees baseball player Lou Gehrig, who died from it in 1941, can strike anyone, usually between the age of 40 and 70, and robs its victims of muscle control.
Mrs. Mower was a coach of Special Olympic athletes and a 5-mile-a-day runner in training for a marathon before her diagnosis. Doctors told her that she never could run again.
Her husband, John Mower, said their reaction to the disease was initially met with tears and disbelief, but they eventually turned to activists, publicists, and fund-raisers with hopes that attention will lead to a cure.
She and 20 others took turns doing tandem skydives in August, 2011, to raise about $600 for ALS research.
The Mowers last year loaded necessities in a recreational vehicle and lived out of it for several months as they took their message about the disease on the road. The 7,800-mile adventure, which they dubbed “Across America for ALS,” took them to ALS events and walks in Seattle, St. Cloud, Minn.; Monterey, Calif.; San Antonio, and Baton Rouge.
The Toledo Mud Hens invited Mrs. Mower to throw out the first pitch at Fifth Third Field on July 4, 2010.
“I am trying to show others they can live their lives no matter what the situation,” she said.
The Toledo Roadrunners Club, a running club and Glass City Marathon organizer, stepped forward to help Mrs. Mower about two months ago when she approached the group through Facebook about participating in the marathon.
Erin O’Connell, the Roadrunners’ volunteer coordinator, said she looked at the woman’s request and, without a moment’s hesitation, knew it would become reality because of the club’s enthusiasm to help others.
“I knew we could make it happen,” said Ms. O’Connell, who will be among the runners pushing or pacing Mrs. Mower.
The Roadrunners, and bicycle clubs, Maumee Valley Wheelmen and Toledo Area Bicyclists, stepped forward with donations to buy the specialized wheelchair that volunteers will push during the marathon. Dave’s Running Shop is providing the adult jogging cart at cost.
Dr. Jeff Galvin, a Cleveland-area physician and ALS advocate, entered the marathon to help push Mrs. Mower, whom he met several years ago through ALS Association chapter events. He will use the event to raise money for the Blazeman Foundation for ALS.
“Robin is just a sweetheart. She never quits,” said Dr. Galvin, a marathon runner and triathlete. “She is incredibly brave and heroic to put herself out there like this.”
He said that the money being raised by the couple will not benefit Mrs. Mower because of the extensive study that it takes to develop drugs. However, he said he is hopeful that her efforts might one day result in a cure that will help others in the future.
“To do this with a smile like the one on her face is heroic beyond measure,” he said.
Contact Mark Reiter at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6199.