Asthma can’t keep this accomplished runner and former preemie from achieving her dreams.

Hi Folks! Something a bit different for me today – I am going to share an inspirational piece courtesy of Cigna!

Cigna is the primary sponsor of the Walt Disney World Marathon event in January and they have invited me to take part in a Blogger / Social Media Meet Up over the weekend. I am super excited about that!

As part of this they provided some inspirational stories to share with you folks and this one spoke to me. I won’t give too big a preamble but it involves Chelby Elam and an after-school mentoring program in Philadelphia helping kids get involved in long-distance running and I can only imagine how my life would have changed if I had gotten interested in long distance running 20 or so years earlier than I did!

Hope you enjoy the article, it made me smile!

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Born three months premature, Chelby Elam of Philadelphia always dealt with asthma and a heart murmur. Since joining Students Run Philly Style, running has made her lungs stronger, and she hasn’t had an asthma attack in years.

“My dad loves to run, so I would go to races to support him and saw lots of kids wearing Students Run Philly Style t-shirts,” said Chelby. “It was cool watching them cross the finish line. I felt inspired to join even though I wasn’t a runner and never really enjoyed competing in track.”

 

Chelby Elam and her Dad – Students Run Philly Style

Students Run Philly Style is an after-school mentor program that gets kids involved in long-distance running, teaching life lessons along the way. Philly schools have their own teams that train together three times each week, coached by a teacher, leader, or parent.

“My Dad became our Students Run coach,” said Chelby. “It’s been so much fun to spend time together running – even though sometimes he bugs me with the dad jokes he makes up to keep our spirits high on long runs.”

“Teamwork and encouragement are two of the biggest lessons I’ve learned,” said Chelby. “Everyone is so supportive- even teammates you don’t know that well. It’s so important to help your friends when they’re struggling.” Another important lesson “is to just enjoy the run, which is different than running track. We’re not competing against each other. We’re all there to have fun.”

As a result of Chelby’s hard work and commitment to her health, The Cigna Foundation, a long-time sponsor of Students Run Philly Style, is sending Chelby and her dad on an all-expense paid trip to Walt Disney World in January. As a symbol and extension of her health journey, she will participant in the Walt Disney World® Half Marathon on Saturday, January 6.

“The Cigna Foundation believes that achieving and maintaining personal health means that communities need trusted places they can turn to for information and services,” said Mary Engvall, Executive Director of the Cigna Foundation. “We support nonprofit organizations that offer better health opportunities wherever and however they’re needed in the communities where we live and serve.”

“Chelby really stands out in our program because she works so hard. Watching her and her dad running together is a testament to the work we do to help the kids in our community and represents what our partnership with the Cigna Foundation is all about,” Lauren Kobylarz, Program Director for Students Run Philly Style.

Chelby and her dad participated in the Philadelphia Half Marathon in November, and the Walt Disney World® Half Marathon will be her first time running out of state. She’s excited to come back to Orlando, a place she hasn’t visited since she was little.

“It’ll be so nice to run in warmer weather, for sure, and to see the different scenery,” said Chelby, “This is really a stepping to my next goal: running the full Philly Marathon in 2018.”

Outside of running, Chelby is a dog walker and freelance photographer, and a member of the Journalism Club. She served as a media intern for the Democratic National Convention, when it came to Philadelphia, and the Washington Post, and continues to volunteer at Students Run Philly Style.

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I hope you enjoyed Chelby’s story!

Good luck on the Walt Disney World Half Marathon Chelby!

 

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