HAMBURG, N.Y. (WIVB) – Runners and walkers will be lacing up their sneakers for a 3K fundraiser at Woodlawn Beach on Sunday. But this event is not your typical road race.
“A Walk in Lauren’s Shoes” 3K Run/Walk and Family Fun Day will raise money for cerebral palsy patients. It is inspired by, and named for, 16-year-old Lauren Walier.
“This may sound funny, but I’m very happy to have the disability that I have,” Lauren recently told News 4. “I’m very lucky. I’m able to speak, and walk around, and live a normal life, with therapy.”
Three years ago, Lauren’s mom Sherry took her to a CP awareness event at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, where the family currently lives.
Growing up, Lauren says she didn’t think much about her condition. Her parents never made a big deal about it. It wasn’t until that evening at the CDC that Lauren came to have a much more in-depth understanding of how cerebral palsy affects the approximately 17 million people worldwide living with it.
“It’s not a cookie-cutter disability. It affects so many different people in so many different ways,” Lauren explained. “You could either have it mild, moderate, or severe.”
Sherry Walier says her daughter’s biggest shock, that night, was learning that there is currently no federal funding for CP research.
“She said to me, ‘Mom, I have my voice. I can articulate so beautifully; I’m a good writer. I want to be the voice for those children… who cannot speak,'” Walier said.
After that, Lauren told her parents she wanted to start the “Make Lemon Aide for CP Foundation.”
Sunday’s 3K at Woodlawn Beach – a spot chosen because Hamburg is Peter and Sherry Walier’s hometown of Hamburg – will be the foundation’s first major fundraiser.
“The participants in the walk or the run will be wearing ankle weights, so that they will understand what it’s like to, if you can walk with cerebral palsy, they’ll have an idea of somewhat, what it feels like,” Lauren said.
As Lauren says her doctor once explained to her, “It’s like walking with a 100-pound cinder block on each foot. That’s how much energy it takes to get through the day.”
The money raised by the 3K will support not only CP research, but also therapy programs like the one Lauren is in.
Physical therapy is helping Lauren to improve her posture and endurance. She says she wants others to experience those same benefits. Her hope is that with more funding, other children with CP will be able to enter similar therapy programs early on in life.
“I can’t wait to live my life to the fullest, when I’m done with therapy. And that’s one thing that I want to give to children, and people generally,” said Lauren.
The run/walk gets underway at 10:00 A.M. on Sunday, July 20. Walk-up registrants are encouraged to arrive by 8:00 A.M. The family and children’s activities will begin at 11:00 A.M.
Lauren’s lemonade stand kits will be available for everyone in attendance. She chose those kits as the hallmark of her foundation based on the concept of “making lemonade when life gives you lemons.”
“It’s all about the attitude that you have,” said Lauren. “My mom always told me as a little kid, ‘Just smile and let your heart shine.'”