At first it seemed that Jack and Nolan Willis would not be able to participate in the Cazenovia July 4th Foot Race. The annual race that kicks off 4th of July celebrations near Syracuse University in upstate New York is overseen by the Syracuse Chargers Track Club who originally deemed the twin Willis boys a safety concern.
Jack and Nolan were born with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy and can only move about with the aid of a wheelchair. The mother of the 12-year-old twins, Allison Willis, eventually got hold of Cazenovia Mayor Kurt Wheeler to help plead her case in allowing the boys to participate. Her case was helped by a group called Team 2 Smiles, runners who volunteer to push people in wheelchairs.
After some negotiations, the Syracuse Chargers Track Club agreed to let the boys in the 10-mile road race, though the start times for the boys would probably be altered. The race officially starts at 8:45 a.m. and organizers are hoping the twins can begin at 8:30 a.m. to avoid any safety concerns with other runners.
“I’m extremely grateful that the Chargers have reconsidered their position, and Team 2 Smiles is excited to race in the morning,” Allison told Syracuse.com.
The boys will be pushed in jogging strollers by a team of experienced runners. When the announcement was made that the boys could not participate, the community of Cazenovia rallied to Allison’s side and several runners even threatened to boycott the race if the twins were not allowed to participate.
“Everyone told me they support me, and they’ve offered to do anything they could to help,” Allison told Syracuse.com.
Mayor Wheeler was able to intervene and worked closely with the Chargers to reverse their decision. It also helped that the story was picked up by major news outlets including the Associated Press, The Wall Street Journal and the New York Times. Runner’s World magazine had also contacted Allison Willis about doing a story.
HDS MEDALLION® salutes the Willis family for not giving up and wishes them the best of luck in the race.