‘A Sophie Fix’: Alumnus Hosts Charitable 5K Race in Memory of Daughter to Help Children With Special Needs Communicate
The rolling hills and sound of lapping water from Lake Waukomis, located in Missouri, is the backdrop every year for a very special 5K race, one that is near and dear to the heart of alumnus Jim Edwards: Sophie’s Run at Lake Waukomis.
Each year, hundreds of runners devote themselves to participating in the race named in honor of Edwards’ daughter, Sophie. Sophie was born with a severe disability that left her unable to communicate, except with her eyes. Edwards and his wife, Theresa, searched restlessly to find a better way for Sophie to communicate with them.
Finally, they found an eye gaze computer that Sophie could operate, however the cost was astronomical. It took months to generate funds for the device, and sadly, it was delivered one week after Sophie’s funeral. From there, Edwards and his wife vowed that no other parent in their district would be without tools to help their children.
Through Sophie’s Run and Sophie’s Run Foundation, Edwards and his team are able to donate funds to benefit children like Sophie in the surrounding communities so that they may obtain the proper technology to communicate and be successful in their lives.
In addition to the run, a library was built in the Parkview School district ( where Sophie was a student) so that children could test different kinds of augmented communication to find what suited them best.
According to Edwards, the run and amount of donations have only grown since the time of the first run. Donations and participation have allowed Edwards and his crew to purchase communication devices for 50 students since May of 2014, a feat of which he is extremely proud given the cost of this technology.
“It’s amazing what we can do for these kids trapped inside these bodies who just want to be able to communicate and have their wants and needs understood, and now we have the technology to do that,” said Edwards.
Each year brings its challenges when it comes to the race, says Edwards. It is always a worry in the back of his mind if there will be enough interest, he said. However, each year the race grows larger and larger. Is the hope of Edwards that they will soon be able to extend to other school districts to help more children in need.
The bond of brotherhood is present every race, as well. According to Edwards, his Lambda Chi brothers have already donated 2000 dollars towards the cause this year, a testament to their unbreakable bond.
But for Edwards, the real reward comes from the many parents who come to thank him personally and the immediate effects seen when a child is finally able to communicate on their own.
“The rewarding part is you can see immediate reaction of what your efforts are producing,” Edwards affirmed. “You can see these kids use these devices or for one of them to come up a give you a hug, that makes it worth it.”
A story that started with tragedy with his own daughter has now turned into a beautiful tribute to her memory. But Sophie is always around, Edwards says, and her spirit remains in the kids that benefit from the Foundation and 5K race.
“We see a lot of things in these kids that we saw in Sophie,” said Edwards. “You need a Sophie fix every once in a while.”
To learn more about the charity run and the children who benefit from donations, please click here.
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