For three years, Emily Norland and her daughter, Amira, have traveled across the region, participating in local road races.
While it may sound like any other standard mother-daughter activity, this specific duos races have extra meaning.
Amira has cerebral palsy, disease which affects both brain and motor functions.
Amira is chair-bound and requires full-time care.
Even with these challenges, Emily finds the strength to push Amira three miles in each race, following the trail of the road, each footsteps guiding the pair to their ultimate goal.
The extra strength needed to push someone for miles may come from a mother’s natural love for her child.
Crossing the finish line not only means the end of a race, but also signifies another milestone and further progress in the fight to raise awareness for CP.
“Sometimes it feels like she’s pulling me, and not me pushing her,” said Emily.
At the beginning of this year, with two years of racing already under thier belts, Emily made a promise as the calendar flipped to 2019.
Emily made a vow to run a race with Amira every month, but even finding a race to run in presented its challenges.
Some road races do not accept wheelchair racers. And, of course, finding a race is tough in the winter. Even travel can get in the way.
At each race, Emily has tried to make it a point to give Amira a medal for completing another race.
In June, Amira and her mother raced in the Railroad Days Railrun.
This year’s run was special, with all runners given the opportunity to run in honor of someone. Amira was one of those whom people could choose to run for, and they did.
Some of Amira’s classmates came out in full-force, running for their fellow classmate.
Also coming out to support Amira was a special needs teacher in Arizona, who altered travel plans to run for Amira.
“The Railrun was the first event where we really had a lot of support from the community and had people run with us.”
With this awareness, Norland hopes to become an ambassador through Ainsley’s Angels of America.
Ainsley’s Angels of America, which ranges from coast to coast across 30 states, spreads awareness and education about cerebral palsy.
There is currently no established ambassador for Ainsley’s Angels in Minnesota.
“I don’t want people to be afraid to talk to someone who is different and that has a disability,” said Norland. “Just because she has a disability doesn’t mean she doesn’t want to be talked to.”
Amira is like any other soon-to-be second grader. She loves to be around kids with her own age and enjoys going to school and being outside. Amira also loves when people come up and talk and communicate with her.
And, of course, spending time with her family. Family time comes full circle at these races, with the whole Norland family taking part in the races.
“Being able to have this journey with Amira has been special,” said Emily. “Maybe our story changes one person’s views on people with disabilities.”
Emily and Amira’s goal is to raise enough money for a local park designed for kids and adults alike with disabilities.
Cerebral palsy is a condition in which symptoms vary from person to person.
Those with severe CP may require special equipment, while those with mild CP may not require any specific help.