Woodside Boys Run Marathon
By MEGAN MONTALVO
|Kevaughn “KE” Plunkett (pictured top) and Diego Lacayo (pictured right), both of Woodside, will run in Disney’s Family Fun 5K Run on Jan. 11.|
Though any marathon runner will admit that nothing quite compares to the feeling of crossing a finish line, for one Woodside boy, being able to compete in a show of athletic skill will mean so much more.
On Jan. 11, Kevaughn “KE” Plunkett will compete in the race of a lifetime at the annual Disney Family Fun 5K Run in Florida.
While the 10-year-old suffers from a rare medical condition called Eosinophilic Gastrointestinal Disorder, which causes his white blood cells to attack food as if it is a parasite, KE’s mother, Colleen, said he is looking forward to show the world how strong he truly is.
“A lot of people think that because someone has a disability, they are unable to participate in sports or anything physical,” she said. “Most of the time, my son outruns me. He enjoys sports and being active just as much as the other children. Being able to participate in a race at Disney World will mean so much to him.”
In addition to running in Disney’s Family Fun 5K Run, KE has also participated in Central Park’s Hope Race and the Fifth Avenue Mile.
With the help of Achilles International, a nonprofit organization that provides training, racing opportunities and an in-school program for children with disabilities, KE has been on a routine regimen of practice runs in Manhattan.
“On Saturday mornings, KE gets to practice with other kids in Central Park,” Colleen said. “Being able to see how much fun he has with Achilles is such a joy. He is able to make friends and feel a sense of accomplishment that other children living with disabilities don’t always get to experience.”
Among his friends made at Achilles is 12-year-old Diego Lacayo of Woodside, who will also participate in Friday’s race.
Under the sponsorship of the Cigna Foundation, a global organization that aids people living with disabilities, both boys received fully funded trips to the Disney race.
“Helping people who are living with disabilities is not only a passion of mine; it also is a cause that hits close to home,” said Mark Marsters, senior executive at Cigna. “I too had a daughter who was disabled.”
After enduring several physical issues, Marsters said his daughter, Abbie, ultimately succumbed to her condition and died at the age of 3.
“Although my time with Abbie was short-lived, I will never forget how much happiness she had. She was my joy,” he said.
At Friday’s race, Marsters, who is also a marathon runner, will be guiding Lacayo as he reaches his goal of crossing the finish line.
While he has participated as a race guide for disabled adults in the past, guiding Lacayo will mark the first time Marsters guides a child.
“To me, there is no greater gift than to help someone else achieve their goal,” Marsters said.
As for Colleen Plunkett, she said that she has no doubts that she will be overcome with emotion as she watches KE cross the finish line at a location that has been dubbed “the happiest place on earth.”
“Words cannot express how proud he makes me,” she said. “I can only imagine that I will be overcome with emotion, crying tears of joy.”
Reach Reporter Megan Montalvo at (718) 357-7400 Ext. 128 or firstname.lastname@example.org.