Runners Unite to Help High School Student with Cerebral Palsy

By: Elizabeth Lamb Email
By: Elizabeth Lamb Email

AUGUSTA COUNTY -- Good neighbors at a Fort Defiance High School helped Dustin Thurston, a student with cerebral palsy, meet his goals by training for a half marathon race.

Dustin's supporters raced a half marathon years ago and on Friday, members of Team Dustin were training for their third race, thanks to Lauren Heberling, the organizer.

“People will say things like, 'Oh, I can't run 13 miles,' but then you have to think there are people out there doing it who said they couldn't, and you can do it, too,” said Heberling.

Teachers, administrators and students plan to run this year's race. Heberling crossed the finish line with Dustin three years ago.

“The finish line is very emotional. Every runner has an individual goal themselves, but always doing it for the bigger cause is very emotional, very fulfilling. He just did wonderful throughout the whole race. It was encouraging, and just being part of the whole thing was amazing.”

Joshua Lovell, a guidance counselor, ran last year with Dustin. He said having people cheer for the team makes it worthwhile.

“His family's there supporting him. The community's there supporting him. It's not about a time goal. It's about helping Dustin get to his accomplishment,” said Lovell.

Dustin is thrilled by the race, the friends he's made and crossing the finish line.

Dustin's team members said he's fearless and Heberling said he sets an example for other students to follow. She hopes Dustin will keep inspiring people to overcome challenges they face.

“It's great to see it evolve every year and to keep going. I hope it goes on for a lot longer,” said Heberling.

The half marathon will be held in Waynesboro at the end of April. Money raised to support the race goes toward a non-profit called Therapeutic Adventures. It helps pay for outdoor adventures, like racing or skiing, for children and adults with disabilities.

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