Apr 1, 2011

Posted in Blog

Maya the Mover

Coach Jana and her sister, Maya

April 2011

There’s a girl everyone is talking about in our programs this spring. Her name is Maya.

Maya was born with brain damage. When she was two, doctors told her family that she would be wheelchair bound. Instead they taught her how to crawl, and walk, and later to swim, participate in adaptive skiing and ice skating, and to run. Maya is now a Girl on the Run.

Maya lacks verbal communication, but she “talks” proficiently through an electronic communication device (her “talker”). Her older sister Jana, a trained GOTR coach, pre-programs appropriate responses to questions for that day’s lesson into Maya’s talker. Jana says that while Maya may not understand the concepts of “negative self-talk” or “bullying”, she wants her to feel a sense of accomplishment from having the opportunity to participate in discussions with the rest of the girls.

Jana regularly provides me with updates: tells me how the other girls engage with Maya, ask about her weekend, compliment her running outfit. Jana says she loves that Maya wants to walk with them, sit next to them, and hold their hands instead of hers, because her goal is always for Maya to be as independent as possible.

She emailed: Because the girls are awesome and the coaches are perceptive, there is a balance in our group for including Maya without making her the center of attention, which she does not need to be. She is just one of the girls. It is awesome because without even thinking about it the girls are directly applying GOTR philosophy by being accepting to others’ differences, having a positive attitude, and seeing every success as significant.

Jana is the best and most loving sister any girl could ever wish for. Their mother Joanne acknowledges that Jana has helped Maya experience many things that she and the girls’ father could not have done on their own.

Maya receiving an energy award!

Three weeks ago, Maya completed her first mile lap workout. Jana wrote: she “ran” most of it and got lots of high fives from the other girls. On her first lap a group of them stopped at the corner of the track and cheered for her until she caught up to them. At the end of her last lap Caroline and Ellie B. took her hands and ran her in, saying “Come on Maya” and “Good Job.” Caroline even nominated Maya for an energy award. This was something they did on their own without any prompting from me or the other coaches.

I wish I could have seen that.

We will all have the opportunity to see Maya and Jana, and the rest of our magnificent girls with their buddies, cross the finish line together at the April 25th practice 5k, and again at the 3rd Annual Girls on the Run 5k May 7th. I can’t wait.

It will absolutely fill my heart.


UPDATE – May 7, 2011: Maya’s first 5k experience was unforgettable:

Jennifer Kimball, Girls on the Run Nashville Council Director, was reading Runner’s World one day when she saw a photo of Girls on the Run founder Molly Barker surrounded by a sea of young girls, all jumping in the air with huge grins on their faces and thought to herself, “I want to do that.” And, with the help of many other interested women (and a few good men), she did. In the fall of 2007 Girls on the Run Nashville began with 15 girls at Percy Priest Elementary and now Jennifer is the one surrounded by hundreds of young girls’ happy faces. Jennifer always has a smile for the girls who she says both surprise, inspire her and make her laugh. Her passion, energy, care, determination and love for the girls and the program is truly contagious.