FLORENCE, SC (WBTW) – Hundreds of people gathered in Florence Saturday morning for the 6th Annual Pacing 4 Pieces which benefited All 4 Autism and the Autism Resource Center of the Pee Dee.
Mariah Whitley and her mother, Elizabeth, ran for their organization Ainsley’s Angels.
Ainsley’s Angels is an organization based on inclusion, and aims to bring awareness to special needs communities across the United States
“I feel like I overcome my disabilities, for at least a moment in time,” said Mariah Whitley.
Whitley’s mother said her 23-year-old daughter has a mitochondrial disorder, and is also legally blind.
Whitley said racing with her mother makes her feel like a different person, and that she feels free when the wind hits her face.
“I’m glad every time I get to do it with her [Whitley’s mother],” she said.
Whitley and her mother have participated in more than 30 races together.
“We’ve done two, full marathons together,” Elizabeth Whitley said. “We’ve ran 2016 and 2017 Marine Corp Marathon, which was also one of our big charity fundraisers for Ainsley’s Angels,” she continued with a smile. “We’ve also done numerous half marathons, and I’ve lost count about 5ks.”
Whitley and her mother were among the first members to join the Coastal Carolina chapter of Ainsley’s Angels.
Whitley’s mother said she loves any opportunity to run with her daughter to watch her smile.
“She loves to hear the crowd cheer, and everything like that,” her mother said. “She just loves being out here with all these people, and she feels like she’s an athlete too so it’s great.”
Whitley said she does not let her disability define who she is as a person.
“I’ve overcome a lot,” she said. “The exhilaration would be my favorite thing. I love the speed.”
Whitley’s mother said even though it takes a little more time to prepare, the events are worth it to spread the word of inclusion.
“With people with any kind of disability, whether it’s autism, cerebral palsy, or any other problem that they have, we’re out here showing that they can be part of the community and love running just as much as we do,” Whitley’s mother said.
Whitley said they run for fun, but they always make it to the finish line.
“She knows she’s out here showing people that it doesn’t matter what you have, what’s wrong with you, you can be part of a great community, and a great event.”
The Whitleys said their next race will be in April for the ‘Capes For Kids 5k’ in Florence.
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