For West End Principal Vincent Myers, his upcoming 5K race will bring him more pride than crossing the finish line at his first full marathon, a race nearly 20 miles longer than the one he’s about to endure.
For Myers, this race won’t be about personal bests and quick mileage, goals that all runners work for race after race.
This race is about supporting a student he’s known for years and proving that inclusion doesn’t start and end within the school. Inclusion is out in the real world.
Myers started his running career five years ago to take control of his Type-1 Diabetes. He knew a change was needed when he struggled to get off the floor from playing with his kids. Since this realization, Myers has run numerous 5K, 10K, 15K, 10-mile, half-marathon and full-marathon races.
But something changed, Myers wanted to find a way to give back through racing.
Through Run856, a running group he had joined, Myers learned of Ainsley’s Angels, a nonprofit that works with the special needs community to get them involved in road running.
“Our primary objective is to find kids who wouldn’t be able to race, typically, and get them through a 5K run,” said Dave Goldstein, ambassador for New Jersey Ainsley’s Angels.
After hearing about Ainsley’s Angels’ efforts to include the special needs community in racing, Myers knew it was an endeavor he wanted to be a part of. He reached out to Goldstein about being an Angel Runner and was asked if he knew a kid who he could run for.
“It took maybe 15 seconds to think but I knew just the kid.”
Andrew and Austin Sylvester, 10-year-old twin brothers, have been students of Meyers for the past six years, since they were in kindergarten. Andrew, who has autism, was Myer’s first choice to run with.
“Austin just ran his first 5K last June and really liked it and it would be great for Andrew to get to experience that feeling,” said Myers.
Myers reached out to the family for permission and waited for two days to hear back. When he finally got the okay from the Sylvesters, he was overwhelmed with pride.
“Knowing that I was doing this took that 5K and made it a much bigger thing,” he said. “I started running for kids, my kids, but now I’ll continue, doing it to help other kids.”
On Saturday, March 18, Myers, pushing Austin in a specialized race chair, and brother Andrew running alongside, will take on the Haddonfield Adrenaline 5K with five additional teachers and three students.
“I needed every ounce of support along the way to get through all of the races I’ve done and now Andrew will have that support to finish his first race,” Myers said.
No one is more supportive of Andrew’s first race than Austin, though.
“He’s my twin and he’s amazing and this will be so fun to do,” said Austin.
“I really want to thank Mr. Myers for doing this for us and with us,” he added. “It was so nice that he thought of Andrew for this.”
For the race, Myers, Andrew and Austin will all be wearing bright pink Ainsley’s Angels t-shirts, making them easily spottable on the course.
“I know there’s going to be a nice group at the finish line cheering for us,” Myers said. “I really look forward to pushing Andrew over that line.”
He added. “Like Dave says, ‘Inclusion wins.”