As administrators of Ability Tree Florida, which seeks to offer respite and recreation to families impacted by disability, Wayne and Christina Cordova are also parents of Emmalee, a 9-year-old with cerebral palsy and epilepsy. And when looking for their own fun activity to enjoy together as a family, they found the ideal match in the Disability Awareness Walk and Roll and Family Fun Run.
"This is an event that we can participate in together as a family," said Wayne Cordova. "My daughter can participate in her wheelchair. It's a fun activity that raises awareness."
The Cordovas were so impressed, in fact, that they joined the walk team as fiscal agents and activity coordinators.
Last year's Disability Awareness Walk and Roll and Family Fun Run generated $7,000 to send 67 Hernando County students with disabilities to summer camp. And the reason is simple.
"What kid doesn't want to go to summer camp?" said Simone Bratcher, ESE/FDLRS Parent Liaison at the Hernando County School System. "And we want to help these children get that chance."
This year's 8th Annual Walk & Roll 5K Family Fun Run will take place 8 a.m. to noon Feb. 29 at West Hernando Middle School, 14325 Ken Austin Parkway. The event will include a Competitive 5K Race and 1 Mile Family Fun Run.
The event will kick off Saturday, Feb. 29, with a 7 AM registration. A race warm up session will follow at 8:15 AM, with the Competitive 5K Race starting at 8:30 AM. Then at 9:30 AM, a 1 Mile Family Fun Run will commence.
And as participants walk and run, they will be helping kids with disabilities make strides.
"The event is intended to help celebrate disability awareness," said Bratcher. "We want to help these kids succeed."
The four-hour event is sponsored by the HCSD Exceptional Student Education Dept. in collaboration with Ability Tree Florida, the Cordovas' "non-profit organization that comes alongside individuals and families impacted by disability through R.E.S.T. (Recreation, Education, Support, Training)".
"Every child can learn, and every teacher has a passion to educate," said Bratcher. "We can't help but be motivated."
It is this same motivation that inspires Hernando school teachers and faculty to volunteer at this event, which also features prizes, informational booths offering community resources, a DJ, fun appearances by sports team mascots, and a performance of the National Anthem. Also ffered will be activity booths featuring games for participating families.
"We're going to have fun activities at the Ability Tree booth, like a beanbag toss with prizes and Sensory-Doh," said Wayne Cordova.
Also in support of this event, raffles conducted outside school property are offering prizes such as tickets to Tampa Bay Rays games, Universal Studios Florida Theme Park, Kennedy Space Center, Adventure Island, Lowry Park Zoo, etc.
After the event, a lottery determines which qualified Hernando ESE students will receive funds to attend summer camp.
"It's up to the families to choose which camp the child should attend," said Bratcher.
Whether it's a camp for kids with special abilities, a reading enrichment camp, a sports camp, etc., the desired end result is always the same: A kid goes to camp.
"And the more that we make from this event," said Bratcher, "The more kids we can help."
Early bird adult 5K entry in the Disability Awareness Walk and Roll and Family Fun Run is $20 through Feb. 14, and includes a T-shirt; the cost is $25 Feb. 15 and later. Student fee is $10 for the 5K or fun run, and includes a T-shirt if registered by Feb. 14. The family fun run is $20 per family, and includes one T-shirt per family if registered by Feb. 14. T-shirts are not guaranteed to those who register after Feb. 14, and will be provided depending on availability.
Sponsors and exhibitors are welcome to participate at this event. Display tables are free for nonprofit organizations and $20 for all others. For information or registration, visit qrgo.page.link/XVAdH or contact Simone Bratcher at (352) 797-7020, ext. 490 or [email protected].
"This is a great way to get involved, participate, and support these families," said Cordova, "and to get these kids to camp."