DEAKEN AILSHIRE was born with arthrogryposis, a rare disorder that causes curvature in the joints. The optimistic eight-year-old has definitely faced plenty of tough obstacles, including eight surgeries at Shriners Hospitals for Children (SHC), but his next challenge will be completely different. And if he has his way, it’ll be really muddy and messy. On March 11, as part of the newly launched Spartans for Shriners initiative, Deaken will tackle his first-ever Spartan Kids Race, a slightly smaller and shorter version of the world-renowned obstacle race, Spartan Race.
Houston is the first city that the Spartan Foundation is working with in this new fundraising model, and SHC is a perfect partner based on all of their community support in the city. The initiative aims to raise awareness and funds for SHC while giving young patients with orthopedic conditions the opportunity to compete in the race and discover their ability to conquer physical obstacles. As Spartan Race’s charity arm, the Spartan Foundation’s mission is to introduce kids to an active, healthy lifestyle. Inspired by founder and CEO JOE DE SENA’S experience with his own four children, the Foundation wants to expose today’s youth to obstacles that help build self-confidence while getting them outside and away from screens. With this mission, the decision to support SHC was easy, explained De Sena. “At the end of the day we want to change lives, and really impact kids. When the opportunity came up it was an obvious choice.”
In addition to introducing a Special Spartans heat, a customized course for young athletes with disabilities like Deaken, the Spartan Foundation has pledged to donate the proceeds from 300 race entries sold (valued at $50,000) to Shriners Hospitals for Children–Houston as part of the Foundation’s major fundraising campaign. “We’re really excited; it’s the first time we’ve had a partnership like this,” said JENNIFER SUTCH, director of development for SHC. “And, all the funds will stay local to support the Shriners in Houston. We want to make a significant impact on the patients in the community.” Individuals and companies can also make a difference by donating. Each donation of $150 will purchase an entry to the adult and Kids Race.
While raising money is the goal of the first Spartans for Shriners event, it is also very much about the kids. “As adults, we know that our young patients can do anything, but they don’t always have the confidence. Watching them cross the finish line, that’s when you see that spark in their eyes and they see that they have no limits,” explained Sutch. For Deaken, completing the course while getting muddy is something he’s excited about and has been preparing for by doing karate. He’s looking forward to trying something new and getting out of his comfort zone, but more than that, he shared how “it feels good that Shriners is getting more money to help kids like me.” And he’s not going at it alone. His 16-year-old sister and his dad will also be taking on the obstacles on March 11 in the adult obstacle course. For more information about the Spartan Race in Houston, a schedule of events and to register for the race, visit www.spartan.com.