#WhyIMini: Stacey & Anthony

Why do you Mini?

Everyone has a different reason. It could be to conquer 13.1 miles, to get back in shape, to run for a cause or simply see the city and Indianapolis Motor Speedway in all its glory.

Whatever your cause, it’s usually something personal.StaceyDraper2

Stacey Draper, a nurse in the pediatric intensive care unit (PICU) at Riley Children’s Hospital, runs the Mini for Anthony.

Draper, a resident of Avon, Ind., is a member of a global nonprofit organization called “I Run 4” that pairs able-bodied runners with children or adults with special needs.  The organization has 40,000 members in more than 24 countries.  Stacey has run the Indy Mini two times since learning about the group from the mother of one of her patients.

“This is a mutual encouragement system, and we cheer each other on,” Draper said.

Six-year-old Anthony, of Tracy, CA, has spastic cerebral palsy; a rare movement disorder where he has muscle spasms without warning.  He cannot digest table food so he’s restricted to using a feeding tube. He also has seizures and takes several kinds of seizure medications according to his mom, Kelly Hutchens.

Hutchens joined “I Run 4” so that someone could think of Anthony, run for him, and provide inspiration.

The Hutchens family considers the match-up with Draper to be a blessing. Stacey connects with Anthony frequently through text messages, Facebook and the occasional card or surprise package.  When she runs, Draper can be found wearing a shirt reading, “I run for Anthony.”  She often sports a headband and some small beads on her running shoes with Anthony’s name.

Draper frequently takes photos when she’s running a race or on the treadmill.  Anthony and his mom send photos back.

Draper also sends race medals, race t-shirts and other gifts to Anthony and his sisters.StaceyDraper3

“We get excited when she sends a package, and we’ll tell Anthony, ‘It’s from Stacey!'” Hutchens said.

The buddies got the opportunity to meet a couple of years ago when Stacey and her husband, Matt, traveled to San Francisco. Stacey pushed Anthony in his first 5K.

Since the two buddies have been paired, Draper has run one marathon, one sprint triathlon, nine half-marathons, and numerous shorter races.

“Basically, Anthony runs the races with me,” Draper said.  “You need that encouragement if you are having a hard time during a race, if your legs hurt and everything hurts. While not the same as what Anthony is going through, running can be incredibly difficult, but we both have to be strong and push out to the finish line.”

Asked why she likes running the Mini, Stacey replied, “It’s my hometown race. My Dad has been running the Mini for years.  I guess it’s become a family tradition.  It’s what we do the first weekend in May. My brother has also run the Mini several times and he’s very excited to have recently been paired with an ‘I Run 4’ buddy of his own.”

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