Special Photo ---- A biker pulls Justin Knight on a special bike trailer during a triathlon.
Conyers resident Justin Knight has cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair, but that hasn't stopped him from joining in 5K races and even triathlons. Thanks to manpower provided by his mother and a cadre of volunteers, the 24-year-old has boated, biked and ridden along side athletes, as he has experienced the thrill of competition.
"It gives him something to look forward to. It's really made a difference with him. His self-esteem has improved drastically," his mother Teresa Knight said.
Justin Knight's interest in racing began about a year ago, when his mother discovered the Kyle Pease Foundation on the Internet. Kyle Pease is a young man in metro Atlanta who also has cerebral palsy and his family started a nonprofit to help disabled community members join in sports.
With the slogan, "Where there's a wheel, there's a way," the nonprofit provides scholarships, as well as medical and adaptive sports equipment to people who use wheelchairs so that they can join in physical activities.
The foundation not only supplies the funds necessary to join in races, but it also provides volunteers who transport the disabled athletes through the races, whether by pushing them in adaptive joggers for foot races, pulling them in special bike attachments, or towing them in kayaks for swimming events.
The foundation helped fund Justin's participation in the Publix Half Marathon, the Holcomb Bridge Hustle 5K, the Virginia Highland Summerfest 5K, the Tri the Parks Triathlon and the 11 Global Triathlon.
"I get out of the house and meet new people and new friends," said Justin Knight, of the races.
"It's great to just see him be able to do it and see him smile about it," said Teresa Knight. "Justin hates having to get up at 4 a.m. but when it's over, he gets bragging rights and it puts a smile on his face and makes him feel accomplished."
A bookkeeper at C.J. Hicks Elementary School and a part-time registrar at Rockdale Medical Center, Teresa Knight, 41, takes part in the foot races by pushing her 145-pound son in a 20-pound adaptive jogging stroller.
Knight is in training for the Marine Corps Marathon scheduled for Oct. 26 in Washington, D.C. She runs on a treadmill several times a week and through Olde Town Conyers and Lenora Park in Gwinnett County. She is also doing weight training.
"I'm planning on pushing Justin the whole way. That's my plan," Knight said.
In order to participate in the marathon, the Knights must raise $1,500 for Push America, a nonprofit that supports people with disabilities. Those wishing to contribute can visit www.firstgiving.com/fundraiser/teresaknight1/marinecorpsmarathon.
Knight said her son, a 2010 Heritage High School graduate, requires assistance with daily living skills and has cognitive delays. He plays baseball with the Miracle League, participates in wheelchair sports, and bowls with the Special Olympics.
He enjoys spending time on Facebook and listening to music on his iPad. Since his left hand is affected by the cerebral palsy, he uses his right hand to type and use the mouse.
Knight said she'd like to see her son earn his GED. Joining in the races is a good motivator, she said.
"It makes him work toward goals," she said.