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Inspiring Inclusivity (and Fun!) in Endurance Events With Ainsley's Angels

From episode: Hailey Reeves: Inspiring Inclusivity in Endurance Events with Ainsley's Angels

think about the race we just had this past weekend and how Liam was just so thrilled. Every time we'd go down the hills, and there were a lot of hills in this race, he would go, yee -haw, and it just brings you so much joy to bring them joy because I'm going to run anyways, right? So if I can help someone else have fun too, I love the inclusivity of that. Tell me more about the athletes that we're pushing. How did they get involved and what is kind of like their backstory? For some of them, I'm sure you don't know all. Yeah, absolutely. So there's a lot of different... Our riders actually are found through the UW Madison Adaptive Fitness Program. We get a lot of people at the university. They're with different ability levels. And they're always trying to find more ways to get involved in the community because sometimes resources to get involved can be very limited. So super awesome that we have this program. We'll also go to a lot of expos and disability pride festivals. I went to one earlier this year. Carla also came to help out at that. And just meeting new people in the community that could benefit from getting to be involved in their community as well through these races. So with Ainsley's Angels, was that predominantly so that Ainsley could be included in things? Is that how it started and now it's just even bigger and now you're reaching out to get these other athletes but also showing them where to get the wheelchairs? How was all that all tied in? Yeah, so it started off as just a family thing. It was a great connection. It really brought the family together. And it just brought her so much joy. And it helped this family realize that this can bring joy to a lot of other people too that don't feel they necessarily have that sense of belonging in the race community or in the running community. And so they wanted to help people be able to be included. And so our mission is not only with running, though it does fall predominantly there. Like our Madison ambassadorship focuses largely on running. But there are other locations that will do triathlons and things like that as well to get people involved. But we do try and help people connect them to find the chairs. But we also want to try and help people just be involved in general. We know these chairs aren't very cheap. We have a couple different models that we'll use. And some are thousands of dollars that can be very difficult to pay for on top of other medical expenses, other expenses for transportation and such that people face. So we try and do these events every couple of weeks just to give people this opportunity to connect with their community in that. So if I'm an athlete that wants to be included in this as a rider, do I have to have my own wheelchair? Or can I rent one from Ainsley's Angels? How does that work? Yeah, so we do try and connect people with grants. We are a nonprofit organization, so we do want to give back to the community as much as possible. So we do help some people purchase chairs if they're not necessarily looking to partake in events with us. They just want to connect with their families more and be able to take their partners, their friends, their family members out on runs. We'll try and help connect them with the chairs. Otherwise, each ambassadorship, a large part of the donations that we bring in are used to purchase chairs that we'll use at our different events. So we have five chairs. We're about to get a sixth chair for in the Madison location that we use ourselves for races. But we have also helped families in the area get chairs as well.

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