It’s always incredible to see someone defy the odds to accomplish their goals.
Of course, for many high school juniors, walking a 1-mile road race is no big deal. But for 17-year-old Mena Hawkins of Las Vegas, Nevada, finishing her local Great Santa Run meant the world.
Mena was born prematurely and developed cerebral palsy when she was 1. The condition affects her legs and fine motor skills, which means she typically relies on a manual wheelchair to get around.
Still, when she heard about the Santa Run for the first time six years ago, she knew she had to give it a try. She trained with her dad Roger for months before the big day, and when it finally arrived, she set out with only the assistance of a walker.
By the time she finished 90 minutes later, the course was closed and traffic had been allowed back onto the streets. Roger said later that they were “tucked in on the sidewalk to avoid the cars.” Regardless, Mena was inspired by her achievement and decided she had to do it again!
So this March, Mena began training for her second Santa Run. As months went by, she hit the gym for weight and core training and tackled various outdoor courses — even in punishing 110-degree heat. Her hard work paid off as she watched her practice time decrease to 42 minutes!
Meanwhile, she’d organized a fundraiser for Opportunity Village, a nonprofit that helps people with disabilities find employment opportunities and outreach programs. Her initial goal was $5,000, but by the time the race arrived on December 7, she’d gathered more than $7,000!
To celebrate the main event, Mena’s grandmother flew in from England, and cheerleaders from her school, Liberty High, lined the streets.
The rest of her family and friends dressed up in Santa costumes and surrounded her as she set off down the course. It didn’t take long for Mena to blow them all away. Not only did she finish the race, but she also walked an extra half mile — in just 38 minutes!
Mena hopes her story will encourage others who struggle with mobility to improve their health. “Be confident in yourself,” she said. “Achieve your end goal. And be happy about it.”
Mena is proof that all of us can accomplish great things. What an incredible example of strength and perseverance!
Watch Mena cross the finish line in the video below, and don’t forget to share.
Mena did it!! One mile just wasn’t enough for the the 17-year-old Liberty High student with cerebral palsy, so she added a few steps and did 1.6 miles for the #LVSantaRun! What a moment. Our hearts are so full right now! 🎅🏃♂️❤️ #OpportunityVillage #TeamMena pic.twitter.com/GBCApJOgeg
— Opportunity Village (@OppVillageLV) December 7, 2019
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