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Ainsley's Angels Promotes Inclusive Participation in Endurance Events

It’s natural to want to be included.

Ainsley’s Angels is all about inclusion. The organization brings people of all abilities together, ensuring everyone can experience endurance racing events.

Bridget Wildschuetz said that if her daughter could, she would probably say, “Faster, mom, faster!”

“Faith loves the movement of running in the chariot (adaptive racing chair),” said Wildschuetz. “She loves when people yell her name and cheer her along the race course. She loves all the people she has met through Ainsley’s Angels, and she loves feeling part of something and getting to be involved.”

Ainsley’s Angels was named in honor of Ainsley Rossiter, a child born with a rare a progressive disorder. In 2008, her father, a major in the Marine Corps, took her on a run in what he called a “running chariot.” It brought her a lot of joy, and it provided a therapeutic bond for him and his daughter.

Ainsley passed away in 2016, but not before completing 100 races, including 20 half marathons as well as the Marine Corps Marathon four times.

Megan Vitale, a Lead Guardian Angel for the Missouri Chapter of Ainsley’s Angels, said, “Ainsley’s dad knew he needed to create a way for other families to have the same or similar experience.”

Wildschuetz said Ainsley’s Angels has been an amazing opportunity for her family. “I am an avid runner and I love sharing my love of running with my daughter, Faith. The race gives our family the ability for all of us to participate. I typically push Faith, but Faith’s dad and younger brother sometimes run with us too or dad pushes.”

To date, more than 730 chariots have been granted through Ainsley’s Angels. The program’s race series travels around the country working with ambassadors to ensure everyone can experience endurance events.

“Races aren’t easy,” said Wildschuetz. “Each hill in a race is like another health or physical challenge in Faith’s life. We persevere and stay determined to get through it, even when it is tough.”

An Ainsley’s Angel Team consists of an athlete-rider – anyone whose disability prevents them from racing on their own – and up to three Angel Runners, athletes who push or pull the athlete-rider. Guardian Angels assist the runners and organizers in accomplishing the mission.

Missouri’s chapter of Ainsley’s Angels began in 2017. “My daughter Sophia was given a chariot and we were asked to get involved in St. Louis,” said Vitale. This year’s events included downtown’s Girls on the Run 5k and the Gobble Wobble in Chesterfield.

“My daughter and I have completed two half marathons and many 5Ks together over the past year,” said Vitale. “I can’t even convey to you the joy on her face when I get her out of her chariot and help her across the finish line. She is incredibly proud of her accomplishment and can tell others about all of the medals she has received. It’s remarkable.”

To get involved with Ainsley’s Angels, register at www.ainsleysangels.org and click the “Join Our Family” tab. Once registered, you will be notified about upcoming races that have been approved by race directors.

Published February 2019

Faith and Bridget WildschuetzBridget Wildschuetz and her daughter, Faith

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