ALLENTOWN, Pa. – Mike Connelly has been running for years.
10-year-old Kaela Knorr, is just starting out.
On Sunday, Mike, the “Crew Chief”, and Kaela, the “Driver”, will hit the pavement for the St. Luke’s Half Marathon.
“When Mike gave me the chance to do this, I just really was excited,” Kaela says.
“I love running and I love sharing the joy of running with others,” Mike tells us.
And Kaela loves being part of a team, especially since she battles something that can feel isolating – she was diagnosed with Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, a painful condition that affects her joints.
But as you watch her – sitting in a special chair, with Mike behind her pushing – she’s a runner… feeling less pain, and more joy.
And in that, she’s not alone.
“I think about them all the time. When I’m not running with a group of a chair, I’m usually thinking about my kids,” Mike begins.
Mike had two children, both born with a rare neurological disorder, who both passed away when they were young.
“It’s tough, but I have wonderful memories of my children. They were wonderful kids,” he says.
The memories are what kept Mike putting one foot in front of the other, now with a new purpose.
Mike started running even more and he noticed special chairs at other races he took part in and started a non-profit: Celebrate Love Always.
His goal is to raise money to buy as many chairs as possible and put kids like Kaela in them.
“When I saw the Adaptive Running Chair, I realized this is something I could kind of give back to those families who have children with special needs because I’ve been through it, so I run with a lot of different children with special needs,” Mike says.
Kaela agrees, and says she’s proof. “It’s giving other people a chance to do something that they could never do before,” she tells us.
Two runners, traveling with two sets of initials for Mike’s kids on the wheels of the adaptive chair (“So they’re running along with us, their spirit is with us,” Mike says) – together make one great team.
The chairs cost $4900 each, and Mike says any donation is welcome. You can donate through the website at celebratelovealways.org.