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Runners and riders fly with Ainsley’s Angels

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KRDO) -- For the second year in a row, a group called Disabling Barriers has granted nearly a million dollars to a handful of charities in the Pikes Peak region that focus on serving children and young adults with disabilities.

The recipients include many well-known nonprofits, like Special Olympics, the ARC, and Goodwill. 

It also includes some lesser-known groups, including Ainsley's Angels.

Ainsley Rossiter was born in 2003 in North Carolina and was diagnosed at a young age with a rare and severe neurological disorder called Infantile Neuroaxonal Dystrophy (INAD). 

Ainsley Rossiter was diagnosed with a neurological disorder at a young age.

Despite her condition, she lit up whenever her parents pushed her into road races. 

Ainsley passed in 2016, but her story inspired families across the country to create their own chapters of Ainsley’s Angels. 

The group connects runners with riders and even provides special racing chairs, which most parents couldn't afford on their own, according to Jennifer Kent, the ambassador of the local chapter in Colorado Springs.

"The ultimate goal for us is for the families of the athlete riders to show up, we have the chairs ready for them, we have the angel runners paired up with them, and it's a chance for them to either roll with their athlete rider or to just enjoy watching the race,” she said. 

Several teams with Ainsley's Angels recently held a practice run at Memorial Park.

As a parent of an athlete rider, Kent understands the benefit for those parents as well as their children. 

"You know, there's a lot of work put into being a parent of someone with a disability, so we want to make this as easy for them as possible." 

Chris Robinson, president of Disabling Barriers, says it was hard to say no when Ainsley’s Angels applied for part of the latest round of funding. 

"It's direct impact, right down to the end user, and that's what we're all about,” he says. 

The local chapter maintains a trailer that carries all the racing chairs to events.

Currently, the local chapter has 16 racing chairs of various styles. 

The $30,000 will pay for additional chairs that will allow the group to accommodate athletes of all shapes and sizes. 

This past Saturday, Ainsley's Angels entered 6 athlete riders into the St. Patrick's Day 5k. 

Team Clayton was among six teams that participated in the St. Patrick's Day 5k in Colorado Springs.

The groups takes on everything, from 5ks to half marathons and even triathlons. 

The runners “lend their legs” to the athletes and allow them to be a part of something they otherwise could not, which is one of the primary goals of Disabling Barriers. 

“There's always going to be unmet needs,” says Robinson, “and we're not big enough to attack them all, but we're going to attack as many of them as we can.” 

Over the past few years, the local chapter of Ainsley's Angels has grown, and Kent hopes that as more people learn about the nonprofit, even more of her angels will fly. 

"Our goal is to have all of our chairs filled up, to have 15 chairs rolling in a race, that would be a dream come true for us."

This was the second grant cycle for Disabling Barriers, a group whose 7-member board reviews applications every fall and decides how to allocate that year’s funding.

Disabling Barriers encourages all nonprofits with a focus on inclusion and accessibility for people with disabilities to apply here.

If you or someone you know would like to be a part of Ainsley's Angels, as a runner or a rider, or a sponsor, there's an easy way to make that connection through the group's website.

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Bart Bedsole

Bart is the evening anchor for KRDO. Learn more about Bart here.


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