Concord, NC - More than 1,300 runners laced up their sneakers, decked themselves out in holiday attire, and came out to Charlotte Motor Speedway for the third annual Eggnog Jog. The event has become a bit of a tradition for many local families and for Essie Stanley and her loved ones that's certainly no exception. But for her the race holds another kind of significance.
"This is the second year that I've run for him," said Stanle, who ran the 5k this year in support of 8-year-old Drake Current, an Ohio boy who has Dravet Syndrome, a rare syndrome that causes frequent seizures.
"What makes this different from other seizure disorders is that it can't be controlled by medication.
So he can be playing a bit and then have a seizure or in the summer when he tries to get in the pool, swim for a couple minutes and then have a seizure so it's not easy to control and there are not many treatment plans for.
Drake has also an autistic brother and baby brother and his dad passed away last year.
"I try to get them extra gear like extra race metals and T-shirts. I make sure to get extra so he always has something in the mail for him and even send one to his older brother and young brother,” said Stanley.
Essie knows what it's like to have a child with special needs, as her 14-year-old son has autism.
"I taught him that he's not disabled. He's differently abled."
So when a friend told her about the Facebook group, I Run For Michael, Stanley knew she had to jump on board. Participants pair up with a child who has a disability and pledges to run or exercise in their name.
"When you sign up, you dedicate at least once a week to post stuff to your buddy, maybe a video or how you did,” she said.
Though they've never met, Dake and Essie communicate on the phone and Skype, and though they live more than 500 miles apart, Essie managed to run with drake by her side, by keeping a picture of him printed on her sleeve.
"You think about the kid who is constantly fighting and doing things with his life and continuing on and that just helps push you through,” she said. “If he can do that, then I could do 3 1/2 miles."
Essie plans to take a trip to Perrysburg, Ohio to visit Drake and his family, in person for the first time. Meanwhile, she’ll be sending Drake a care package that the staff at Charlotte Motor Speedway put together, including a t-shirt, die cast model car, and a toy of the NASCAR Mascot, Lug Nut.
For more information about or to get involved with I Run for Michael, visit the group’s Facebook page by the same name or their website: whoirun4.com.