Vanderbilt Kennedy Center

William Spickard, the namesake and inspiration for Team William, and his sister Anna Spickard, who organized the fundraising 5k event.

William Spickard, the namesake and inspiration for Team William, and his sister Anna Spickard, who organized the fundraising 5k event.

Team William Heads for the Country Music Marathon

Updated on 4/27/2012 9:14:03 AM.

Team William Heads for the Country Music Marathon

By Ellen Margulies

With another $5,000-plus under their belts from their fundraising 5k race on April 7, the folks behind Team William are ready for the big leagues: the Country Music Marathon.

Not even a bruised heel could keep Andrea McDermott Sanders, marathon runner and Team William founder, off the 26.2-mile course on April 28. She’ll fly across the country from her home in Seattle, where she is development director at the Academy for Precision Learning, a school for children with autism and their typically developing peers, just for the big day.

This is more than a foot race; it's a cause that's close to Sanders' heart.

Team William is named for 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. The endowment fund has provided more than 25 scholarships and granted continued support for seven children.

On April 7, Team William raised over $5,000 at its annual 5K event, which was started by William's sister Anna Spickard. The group is hoping to raise even more when Sanders runs the Country Music Marathon on April 28. They need $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 VKC Reading Clinic scholarships.

“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.”

How to Help:

You can still sign up to run or walk the full or half-marathon in the April 28 Country Music Marathon for Team William. For more info about Team William, go to TeamWilliam.org. If you have questions about how to get involved, email Andrea Sanders.

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