Dave Kittredge had barely crossed the finish line at the half-marathon during the Frederick Running Festival before he was asked to run it again.
Kittredge, as part of a team of five, pushed a cart in which a young man named Matthew sat across the finish line, helping Matthew finish the 13.1-mile race.
“As soon as we crossed the finish line, Matthew looked up at me and said, ‘That was so much fun, can we go do it again?’” Kittredge said. “Those moments make it all worth it.”
Kittredge was a member of one of six teams representing Athletes Serving Athletes to push a child through the half-marathon Sunday morning.
Athletes Serving Athletes is a nonprofit charity founded in Baltimore in 2008, which provides volunteers to help people with disabilities complete races of various lengths. It added a Frederick County chapter last year.
A team is made up of anywhere between two and four “wingmen,” a captain and the athlete the wingmen are assisting. Teams compete in running events from as far as Philadelphia.
“Our motto is ‘Together we finish,’” said Kerry Blackmer, coordinator of the Frederick County chapter. “We do it to make sure all athletes get a chance to run the race.”
This year was the third year Athletes Serving Athletes took part in the Frederick Running Festival, and is one of more than 100 events in which the organization participates each year. With five teams in Saturday’s 5K, Athletes Serving Athletes had most runners in the Frederick event since it started participating.
Wingmen are all volunteers. Founder Dave Slomkowski said there are no pre-requisites for being a volunteer aside from having a desire to help kids.
Slomkowski got the idea for Athletes Serving Athletes after seeing a documentary on Dick and Rick Hoyt — a famous father-son duo in running circles in which the father, Dick, pushed his son Rick in a wheelchair through multiple marathons and Ironman triathlons.
The documentary struck a chord with Slomkowski and he looked for a place he could help in similar ways.
The only problem was that no programs were doing anything similar to the Hoyts. So Slomkowski decided he would reach out to local schools and see if any students were interested. When the youths showed their willingness to participate, Slomkowski officially started his organization.
“The biggest thing I get out of this is perspective,” Slomkowski said. “Any time I see these kids and families who are dealing with real difficulties, it makes me realize how good I have it. It’s a constant reminder of my blessings and to not get bent out of shape about the minor things in life.”