Children from Annie L. Gaetz, an elementary school in Red Deer, recently participated in the Dawe Run where Grade 4 and 5 students ran 3 km from Heritage Ranch to Great Chief Park.
To most this would seem like an ordinary event, a typical part of a school with over 3,000 students running in hopes of coming in first, second or third. However, for one Grade 4 student participating in this physical endeavour meant more than just running with his classmates. This event became a personal challenge for nine-year-old Elijah Richert.
Elijah has problems with his legs, hips and feet. He has a condition called femoral anteversion. Basically this means that his femur has an inward twist in the thighbone. He has this in both legs. This creates problems with balance, being knock-kneed and having severe ‘in-toeing’.
Femoral anteversion is a common ailment and can occur in up to 10% of children. In most children the body will correct itself as they grow but Elijah’s symptoms are severe and very pronounced, especially in his feet. Due to the twist in his femur he walks with both feet almost completely turned inward and when he walks he has to literally walk over his feet. This in turn has caused problems with the positioning of his hip joints.
Due to these issues Elijah starts to experience pain if he has to walk long distances and he has an impossible time trying to play sports. To deal with the pain he sticks to a regime of ice packs, warm baths and ibuprofen.
When Elijah’s mother, Dani Richert, heard that Annie L. Gaetz was doing the Dawe Run last month, she was skeptical that her son would be able to participate.
“Elijah has a hard time walking around the mall for longer than 15 minutes without experiencing acute pain, how could he do a three kilometre walk/run?” said Dani.
However, Elijah heard about the event at school and decided he was going to participate. He drew inspiration from a story he had been studying in school – the story of Terry Fox and how endeavoured to run across Canada to support cancer research.
“If Terry Fox can run, then I can run,” said Elijah. And that is exactly what he did.
Dani volunteered at the Dawe Run so that she could be there for moral support.
“I was preparing for him to be one of the last kids coming in from the run and I was definitely picturing him walking. I didn’t care how he made it past the finish line, I just wanted him to have the strength to finish the race and accomplish what he had set out to do.”
Elijah started his race from Heritage Ranch at 11:45 a.m. He met his mother at Great Chief Park 12:10 p.m. He ran the entire 3 km.
After crossing the finish line Elijah looked at his mother and said, “I bet that Terry Fox would be very proud of me!”
Elijah truly persevered through the run. He ran as hard as he could. He had to stop to throw up on the sidelines a few times but then he just kept going. He did not let anything stand in his way, said his mom.
In addition to his diagnosis of femoral anteversion, Elijah is also autistic. He has Aspergers. This makes new situations and social settings extremely hard for him to adjust to but he did not let that stand in his way of running this race either, said Dani.
“He is my hero,” she said. “Through it all he never complains. He has to fight to do things that neuro-typical kids take for granted and he does it with a smile on his face. He has taught me so much about being strong.”
The diagnosis that Elijah has also has an effect on all his family members but his mom said, “I wouldn’t trade my life for all the money in the world.”