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Good Story Challenge: Running for a Cause

8:21 AM, Feb 15, 2013   |    comments
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SOUTH BUFFALO, NY - We're halfway through our Good Story Challenge given to us by students at Tapestry Charter School, where they laid down the gauntlet to us to tell you Great Stories about the community in which we live.

Two on Your Side's Dave McKinley drew lucky number 13, a story about a South Buffalo man who's become a real live super hero to a lot of kids who need one by helping them believe in themselves.

Marty Gregoire is going though the rigors of training for an upcoming marathon.

Running is not new to him, he's done a 5k every month for 2 years.  What sets Marty apart from the pack, is that he has cerebral Palsy.

Why would someone, who literally bears the scars of several surgeries conducted just to help him walk, be running? Well, the answer is that he runs for those who can't.

"I know that they would if they could, and I want to show them that it's possible to do what you can do while you can do it, as long as you try," says Marty.

He runs frequently for children with CP, pictures of whom he often pins to his running outfits. His running also helps fund a foundation he started called Footsteps of Western New York, which raises money to provide necessities for kids with CP which insurance won't cover.

"Somebody might have a walker but it's not safe for them or it's not functional for them so we actually, if we got an application we had one from Depew where the boy was afraid to use his walker because it kept falling on him," says Marty.

That boy is 10 year old Cody Cwiklinski, who along with having CP, is also an epileptic who is legally blind.

But with his new walker, he's no longer afraid and even challenging himself to walk up stairs unassisted.

But walkers and shoe lifts, while necessary, may not be the most important thing to a child with CP. Motivating them to do their exercises is one of the biggest challenges and thus was born the Capes for Kids Program.

When Marty hears of a kid who is facing a surgery, or taking an important step in their physically therapy for which they need extra strength, they receive a personally monogrammed super hero cape.

"We started giving them to kids just as a nice gifts but we found was that when they put them on at therapy they kept doing their exercises and they did them better," says Marty.

The very first one was delivered last year to a New Jersey Boy named Brandon, who, after he donned his cape, decided to doff his crutches and try to walk without them.

The super hero images which adorn the box were created by a friend of Marty's who draws for the Cartoon Network. You'll notice they also appear on the message card sent with each of the capes.

It reads: "Word of your recent super human courage and bravery has reached our central office. We believe we have what it takes to be a super hero at physical therapy. Remember, Heroes come in all sizes. Each with their own powers and abilities. With hard work, determination and doing your stretches and exercises every day, your true powers will begin to show. We know you have what it takes to accept this challenge and hope you will accept this mission." It is signed by Agent 27, Super Hero Recruiter.

Marty's long time Physical Therapist Pat O' Connor, has know the true identity for most of Agent 27's 37 years.

"He does what he preaches. He's a hero. The cape for kids is awesome, he inspires me was a runner, and he inspires other patients, because he works so hard to be at the highest functional level he can be with what he has," says Pat.

"In my journey of having surgeries and meeting these families, I found that a lot of them didn't have anywhere to lean," says Marty.

"When I run all these kids that I've met, they're in my mind and I see them, and I see what they do, I see how hard they work just to get to where they wanna be. You know, they're special not because they have CP, they're special because they work hard. And I've seen it. And if they can do it I can do it," says Marty.

After our interview with Marty, his physical therapist at the Buffalo ReHab Group, surprised him with a check for $1,000. They could use your help too, if you want to lend a hand.
You can get started by visiting their web site at www.FootstepsofWNY.org.

You can also go to that site if you know anyone who has Cerebral Palsy, and might need their assistance.

Click on the video player above to watch our story from 2 On Your Side Reporter Dave McKinley and Photojournalist Norm Fisher from Eden. Follow Dave on Twitter: @DaveMcKinley2

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