One of the coolest tales from the trails we told this year revolved around the Ward kids from Layton, Utah – who at just 7, 9, and 10-years-old had taken to running half-marathons with their mom and dad.
The trio cleaned house at the XTERRA Trail Running National Championship 21K in September as Lota (7), Taimane (9), and Leilani (10) each went home with a National Championship crown. In addition, Lota became the youngest runner to complete the grueling 21K course at Snowbasin.
What made the story truly special, however, was the insight on Lota. He didn’t just want to run, he wanted to run to help raise money and awareness for two little boys in his neighborhood that have Spinal Muscular Atrophy. In that effort he was a champion as well, raising nearly $2,000 to help purchase a much-needed new wheelchair for the boys.
"Lota is an incredible kid! At only 7-years-old he ran a half marathon to raise money to help with the medical needs of my boys and to raise awareness for SMA. I was so touched by his desire to serve our family. I have been so impressed by how he not only wanted to do this very cool act of service but by how kind he is to my boys every time he is around them. He has a maturity and kindness that seem well beyond his years. He is sincerely such a good kid and I am grateful that my kids have such an amazing boy to be friends with," said Esther Jensen, the boy’s mom.
In a heartbreaking twist to the story, now it’s Lota that needs the help. A month after XTERRA Nationals he was diagnosed with a rare brain tumor known as Teratoma, and underwent his second brain surgery just yesterday (November 12, 2014). A family friend said the surgery went well and Lota is doing good, and even better – the tumor looks benign.
Now, the friends and family he just helped are helping him, and rallying one-and-all to "Give it Forward."
With Thanksgiving just around the corner let us be thankful for kids with big hearts, and get Lota back to the trails he loves to run…