It’s amazing that a group of 10 teenagers, ranging in age from 15 to 18, agreed to get up very early on a Saturday morning, which also happened to be the morning after prom for some, to trek to the Cleveland Browns stadium, stretch, and then run a 5K.
That they did it to benefit OAR and people with autism is downright awe-inspiring. The group is part of the JROTC team at Horizon Science Academy in Cleveland, led by retired U.S. Army First Sergeant and instructor David A. Takacs.
The runners were Jonathon Henry, Travell Robinson, Darwin Henderson, Dominic Holutiak, TyShawn Vaughn, Reginald Warren Jr., Michael Brown, Christopher Benchek, Alundis Hayes, and Juan Rodriguez, and Takacs. They were well-supported by student volunteers, including Michael Huff, Alicia Sattlefield, Adaisjah Strother, Bre'Onna Mays-Taylor, Antoinette Berry-Snowden, Courtnie Adams, and teachers Megan McKinley and Rebecca Borchert.
The team participated in the Rite Aid Cleveland 5K presented by OAR, on Saturday, May 14, at OAR’s invitation. “We wanted to have a group of students showing unity and all running together in formation. These JROTC kids show dedication. In order to participate in this event, they spent hours outside of the classroom to prepare,” explains RUN coordinator Alex van Wees.
Their preparations included raising money as well. Reaching out to parents, friends, neighbors, and family for donations, the team raised $250.
As they got ready to run, the team lined up in a formation in front of all the runners. “We carried our guidon [a military flag that signifies the unit] with us,” explains Takacs.
The group ran in army combat uniform, singing cadence, Takacs says, and he was thrilled when “numerous runners ran along side of us and behind us the entire run. We were extremely proud that we inspired other runners to run with us and sing our cadences.”
“After the run, we were awarded medals, had some breakfast, and spoke to a lot of runners who thanked us for participating and motivating them to finish the race. The students and volunteers left Browns Stadium and went home and told all our family and friends about our accomplishments,” Takacs noted.
Recently honored as JROTC Teacher of the Year, Takacs says he was inspired by his students. “Even though our students have many issues of their own to deal with, they still came together to raise money for a great cause. It helped the students get more involved in the community and aware of autism.”