Updated on 4/4/2012 11:37:56 AM.
By Ellen Margulies
There might be a thousand reasons to run a marathon, a million causes to root for. But Andrea McDermott Sanders only needed one.
His name is William Spickard, and from the time Sanders met him as a 7-year-old in 2004, she was smitten. The youngster, who has Down syndrome, needed a reading tutor, while Sanders, a grad student at Vanderbilt at the time, needed more hands-on experience in special education. She quickly bonded with the energetic and enthusiastic boy, whom she also describes as “very, very athletic.”
“They hired me despite my lack of experience,” says Sanders. “From the beginning it was apparent he was a visual and hands-on learner, and you needed to get creative and incorporate that into instruction.”
William’s experience inspired Sanders. By the next year, she put together the Team William Endowment. She ran the Country Music Marathon, and through the fundraising team raised $31,000 for scholarships for children with Down syndrome to attend the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center Reading Clinic.
“William serves as inspiration for other children who need support and encouragement in literacy,” says Sanders. Since its creation, Team William Endowment has provided more than 25 scholarships and granted continued support for seven children. “The need is never going to go away.”
Now, an annual 5K walk-run for people of all ages, started by William's sister Anna Spickard, is held to continue raising money for Team William. This year’s event is at 9 a.m. Saturday, April 7, at Shelter #9 in Edwin Warner Park on Vaughn Road. And the fundraising team has its sights set on a new goal. The group hopes to raise $17,500 to create a Team William Discovery Grant, which would allow researchers to investigate the learning processes of children with Down syndrome. Proceeds will also continue to support Reading Clinic scholarships.
Sanders now lives in Seattle, where she is development director at the Academy for Precision Learning, a school for children with autism and their typically developing peers. But her dedication to Team William hasn’t waned, and despite an injury to her right heel, she’s still planning to run all 26.2 miles in the April 28 Country Music Marathon.
“I’ve always felt you need a reason to run, whether that be a cause… or your own personal cause,” Sanders said. “Sometimes it comes down to each individual and what they’re inspired by, and for me that was William.”
Pre-registration for the 5K is $25; race day cost is $30. For more info or to sign up for the race, go to TeamWilliam.org.
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