Pushing Past Possibilities

The warm sun began to sneak through the morning overcast. As the sun started to heat the air, the non-stop clicking of shoes hitting the asphalt filled the air of Orange County in May 2015. As the zooming runners raced through the streets of Newport Beach, Irvine, Santa Ana, and Costa Mesa, many supporters for a local summer camp gathered near the finish line.

While the marathon appeared common to many, what occurred during the marathon amazed.

Ernesto Rangel and Jay Hallett, members of a local summer camp called RAD Camp, were on their way to completing the marathon. While this would be yet another completed marathon for Rangel, a long distance runner who has once finished a 100-mile race, it would be Hallett’s first completed marathon.

Hallett has cerebral palsy, a disorder that affects muscle movement and is caused by brain damage that happens before or during an infant’s birth, and is confined to a wheelchair. However, his wheelchair cannot contain his spirit from soaring to unthinkable heights.

As Rangel pushed Hallett in the marathon, the pair had the opportunity to accomplish something special and start a new movement in the process.

Ernesto Rangel (left) and Jay Hallett (right) pose during the 2015 Orange County Marathon.

The two crossed the finish line to loud cheers and a thunderous applause. As the RAD Camp cheerleaders and two runners reunited for the end celebration, one of the supporters, Kelsey Pulver, proclaimed that a running group should be started in support of RAD Camp. Just like that, the Run4RAD movement began.

“I felt for a few miles that I was running on clouds and I’m sure Jay felt the same way,” said Rangel, a 28-year-old Ontario resident, on the impact of the support during the race.

Little did many realize that Run4RAD could grow into the group that it is today. Today the Run4RAD team participates in a variety of races each year, ranging from runs in Orange County to the East Coast. The running group has spread awareness for its cause, RAD Camp, in a dramatic way with even strangers curious about the movement. Run4RAD benefits not only RAD Camp, but the individuals that partake in the running. For individuals like Hallett, Run4RAD offers a new activity that previously seemed impossible. Hallett experienced the euphoria of completing a marathon once more in this year’s Long Beach Marathon, again being pushed by his friend Rangel.

John Viet-Triet Hoa Nguyen shows his smile as he participates in the 2016 Long Beach Half-Marathon.

Run4RAD is a group that exists in support of RAD Camp, a summer camp designated to individuals with developmental disabilities. The camp centers on pairing a volunteer counselor with a camper who has a developmental disability.

RAD Camp, located at the Irvine Ranch Outdoor Education Center in Orange, sees a variety of developmental disabilities — the most common of them being down syndrome, autism, and cerebral palsy. However, RAD Camp does not focus on the disabilities, rather the unlimited abilities that are shared by everybody attending. This is the core idea of Run4RAD.

“Each of us has our own disabilities and level of strength and stamina,” said John Viet-Triet Hoa Nguyen. “But with a positive attitude, hard work, and support from RAD friends, we can rise above those disabilities and achieve anything.”

Nguyen, a 30-year-old Run4RAD member from Fountain Valley, is one of the founders of the running group and the creator of the Run4RAD group on Facebook, which now has over 120 members. Nguyen has now completed six half-marathon races for Run4RAD, including this past weekend’s Long Beach Half-Marathon. Nguyen stresses that the Run4RAD movement is continuously growing all over the nation. In fact, he even points out that the Run4RAD member in New York has completed a few races.

Cameron Farrell’s medal achieved from completing the Portland Marathon.

The Run4RAD movement also spreads awareness across the country by its runners participating in competitions across different regions.

Cameron Farrell helped spread the Run4RAD message this past weekend in Portland, Oregon by completing the Portland Marathon. Farrell, a 23-year-old from Yorba Linda, posted the impressive time of three-hours and forty-minutes. Farrell has noticed that no matter where he runs, he is bound to be asked about what his Run4RAD shirt stands for.

“People have come up to me and asked what is RAD and I first tell them, ‘hey lady, don’t you see I am dying here now is not the time,’” said Farrell. “But then I explain to them all about what we are doing and what we stand for.”

All jokes aside, Farrell stated that having strangers take notice and become informed about the Run4RAD movement is firsthand knowledge that awareness on the subject is being significantly raised.

Run4RAD does a lot of important things — raising awareness for RAD Camp and getting donations for RAD Camp — but perhaps the most important thing that Run4RAD does is give an opportunity to push past preconceived notions. For individuals like Hallett, who may never have thought that he could complete a marathon, Run4RAD gives them a chance to partake in an activity that they couldn’t do before.

“To give them that opportunity to be just like us, running and racing with others from all over,” said Farrell. “We are very blessed to have been given able bodies, so I make it my responsibility to help them get the most out of life from what they’ve been given.”

Rangel also believes that pushing the individuals from RAD camp that are in wheelchairs is a visual representation of “rising above disabilities” — the statement that RAD stands for.

Once again, running swiftly pattered across the ground. This time, the sun did not creep past clouds as it had been bright and center since the early hours of the morning. In the distance, one could’ve heard the waves crashing against the sands of the beach. Crowds upon crowds of people cheered on their friends and family.

Among the crowd, Run4RAD supporters praised their numerous runners as they passed the spectators. Amid the Run4RAD runners stood Rangel and Hallett as the two once again aimed to complete a marathon — this time the Long Beach Marathon.

The Run4RAD crew celebrate after completing the 2016 Long Beach Marathon and Half-Marathon.

Although this is their second go at completing a marathon, this time, the pair desired to improve their time. As the duo crossed the finish line, Rangel looked up at the digital screen which read their time of finish. The clock read four-hours and a few seconds. The pair had done it — completing yet another marathon, raising awareness and monetary funds for RAD Camp, and improving on their already impressive race time.

This feat holds a special place in the heart of Rangel and Hallett. While Rangel and Hallett were the only Run4RAD runners to participate in the Long Beach Marathon, numerous runners took part in the day’s half-marathon.

Hallett, who has now been pushed in two marathons and three half-marathons, appreciates Run4RAD as it offers him a way to stay in touch with his friends from summer camp.

“It shows people that there is an awesome place like Camp with people who are more than just counselors, they are real life friends,” said Hallett, a 46-year-old Huntington Beach resident. However, while Hallett enjoys exercising and bonding with his friends, what he enjoys most is being able to experience running.

“Run4RAD is important to me because it gives me the chance to do something I’ve never been able to do — run a big race,” said Hallett.

Rangel and Hallett race to the finish at the 2016 Long Beach Marathon.

In less than a year-and-a-half, the participation for Run4RAD has grown exponentially as spectators have turned into runners. Action has been taken and now even more runners participate in raising awareness for RAD Camp. While awareness, along with funds for the camp, has been raised there is more work to be done.

“My goal would be to have Run4RAD be known nationally,” said Rangel as he wants RAD’s message to reach as many audiences as possible.

Farrell sees no end in Run4RAD’s possibilities.

“As far as Run4RAD is concerned the sky’s the limit, am I right?” Farrell went on to say “I think a big goal that I would love to see is for Run4RAD to sponsor a run, maybe a 10-K, with all proceeds going to RAD Camp.”

While speaking of the future of Run4RAD, Rangel said “we are limitless, powerful beyond measure if we believe.”