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‘Way to go, grandma!’ 92-year-old surprised with running wheelchair at 5K race

By Matteo Iadonisi

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    POTTSTOWN, Pennsylvania (WPVI) — 92-year-old Eve Patterson crossed the finish line with a little help from her family today.

“One day, when I was visiting grandma, she said how she would have really liked to run with us,” said Patterson’s granddaughter, Kaitlyn Mendenhall. “And I said, Man, wouldn’t it be awesome if we could figure out a way to get her in a 5K?”

Mendenhall and her sister, Lindsey Engler, team up to run recreationally. And they looked to their running community in Pennsylvania to take the first steps to make grandma’s dream come true.

They made a post on the social media page for The RUNegades, a running club that hosts various community events. That post helped them connect with Ainsley’s Angels, an organization that promotes inclusivity by providing running chairs to individuals of varying abilities.

Once hearing Patterson’s story, Ainsley’s Angels lended a running chair to the family.

On the morning of the 37th Annual Pottstown Patriotic 5K, Patterson’s family surprised her with the news.

“I always wanted to do this, but I didn’t think I’d do it in a wheelchair,” said Patterson. “It worked out fine. They had nice equipment for me. And I smiled the whole time.”

With family members taking turns pushing the wheelchair, Patterson was able to cross the finish line in just over a half hour.

The family wore custom t-shirts with the special number, 222, on the back. The number is significant to the family and is representative of their late grandfather.

Lindsey Engler was thrilled to help her grandmother have this experience.

“It’s so nice that she can see how much we love her and how much we appreciate all that she’s done for us,” she said. “We spent so much time growing up at her house, roaming her property and learning about gardening and playing Wheel of Fortune with her. We just have so many amazing memories.”

Organizers of the Pottstown Patriotic 5K were also excited for Patterson and made a point to give her several shout-outs throughout the day.

“It’s just one of those things that really puts the community first and when we get to celebrate a member of that community, especially one as sweet as her, we’re all for it,” said one of the race directors, Michael Ragozzino.

Ragozzino says the race is seeing a resurgence in participation following the pandemic and is raising funds to support the Parks and Recreation Department in Pottstown.

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