Local disabled teen meets her ‘running partner’

Pennsylvania man represents girl from Eaton.

In August of 2014 Jan Kaye of Eaton found her daughter, Kelley Cupp, a “running partner” through the nonprofit Who I Run 4 website that connects runners with special needs families.

Kelley, 14, doesn’t run and has never even been able to stand for more than 20 seconds, when she was a baby.

Diagnosed with cerebral palsy at nine months, Kelley is nonverbal and nonmobile, has epilepsy, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, a tracheotomy and uses a ventilator at night. But, through Who I Run 4, Kelley was paired with Chad Nevils, who lives in Cressona, Penn. He sends her his running medals, videos of his runs and messages on a regular basis.

But the two had never met — not until Kelley’s birthday, March 26, when Kelley and her mom surprised Nevils at his workplace.

“Chad became her legs, and we couldn’t have found a better match,” her mother said. “Although Kelley’s nonverbal, she smiles whenever Chad’s name is mentioned.”

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Kaye reads all of Chad’s messages to Kelley, and Kelley enjoys the YouTube videos of his runs; on the first one he sent, he was singing “You Are My Sunshine” to her. However, his videos were very shaky, jumping all over and difficult to watch. “Kelley’s father died in 2007, and she gets Social Security, so, on the first Christmas after they’d become partners, she sent him a generic Go-Pro (helmet camera) with head and chest gear and a selfie stick.”

Nevils, a physical therapist at St. Luke’s University Hospital in Bethlehem, Pa., had never met Kelley in person. “Then, in January, Kelley was in the hospital with pneumonia and complications and almost died. Chad was so upset because he was afraid they’d never get a chance to meet,” Kaye said.

“When Kelley recovered and came home, I planned our trip to meet him, and he had no clue, even though his boss and co-workers were involved in the surprise visit,” Kaye said.

Kaye planned the surprise for March 26, Kelley’s 14th birthday and Epilepsy Day. “I had Kelley’s Team shirts made in green and purple – green for cerebral palsy and purple for epilepsy. She’s the coach, and Chad’s the team.”

Kelley, her mother and grandmother made the 10-hour trip by car. The hospital staff called a “planned” emergency in room 113 and, when Nevils entered the room, “he did a double take,” Kaye said. “When he saw Kelley, he got a tear in his eye and went right to her.

“He came to our hotel when he got off work and spent more time with Kelley,” Kaye said.

In addition to his various walks and runs for Kelley, Nevils starting running marathons and will run one for her a week before he sees her a second time. This time, Kelley will accompany him on the 10th annual Cincinnati Walk for Kids on Sept. 24, sponsored by Cincinnati Children’s Hospital.

“He’s bringing a special-needs stroller and a couple of friends to help and will take Kelley on the walk with him,” Kaye said.

The international Who Do You Run 4 program is funded by donations, fundraisers and marathon sponsorships and was created by a boy with Down syndrome.

Contact this contributing writer at virgburroughs@gmail.com.

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