Teen With Cerebral Palsy Inspires Others By Finishing Race
She trained for months to beat her previous record, and raised money for others with disabilities.
Philomena "Mena" Hawkins is not one to shy away from a challenge. The 17-year-old has Cerebral Palsy, but that didn't stop her from taking part in last weekend's Great Santa Run in Las Vegas, NV. Along with thousands of others, Mena completed the one-mile race in downtown Las Vegas to benefit Opportunity Village, an organization that supports adults with disabilities.
Mena uses a reverse walker, and she says she's been training for the race since March by walking from her neighborhood park to a Starbucks and doing core work at the gym. She didn't skip a day, even when the hot Vegas temps reached 110 degrees in the summer. While Mena says the training has been tough, she says she started to enjoy it more as her time improved.
This wasn't the first time the Liberty High student joined the Great Santa Run. She entered it seven years ago after she had a big surgery. It took her an hour to finish the race that year. She even had to move to the sidewalk when the city re-opened the road to traffic, but that didn't stop her from reaching her goal.
"I found it difficult, but it felt really good when I got to the finish line," she told KSNV-TV .
In the months leading up to the event, Mena started a fundraising page to help raise money for Opportunity Village. She brought in over $5,000 for their cause, the most from any individual fundraiser.
On Saturday, Mena completed the Great Santa Run in just 38 minutes. Her friends and family cheered her on from the sidelines with signs that read, "Go Mena!" Her grandmother even flew in from England to see her in the race, and a group of cheerleaders chanted her name and threw confetti as she crossed the finish line.
She credits her family for always supporting her in reaching her goals, especially her father.
"My dad has helped me get through a lot of things and has taught me to be positive and to take it how it is and you'll get better over time," she said.
Mena hopes that her experience will help motivate others to overcome difficulty in their own lives. As for words of advice, her message is simple - and to the point.
"Be confident in yourself," she says. "Achieve your end goal. And be happy about it."
Even though Mena's fundraiser has closed, you can still make a donation to Opportunity Village by visiting their website's donation page. Let's #StartSomethingGood together.
(Video and images c/o Opportunity Village)