By ASHLEY BERKERY
Much larger than any physical problems are Cora Steele’s tender, caring heart and her determination. Despite a genetic disorder known as Trisomy Three, the deletion of the 21st chromosome, Cora received an Honorable Mention award for completing her first race, the Hall-Kent Fall Festival Fun Run, with the help of her entire fifth grade class cheering her on.
Cora is still on a medical journey for an exact diagnosis. She battled liver cancer as a toddler, had a liver resection, bladder surgery in early elementary school and last year in fourth grade had back surgery to insert titanium rods, which means she is unable to bend her back at all.
“We were all lined up on the side of the road with tears flowing down our cheeks as she finished,” Suzanne Humphries, Cora’s teacher, said.
Wilson McCraw, a fifth grade peer of Cora’s since pre-school, finished the Fun Run then circled back to help Cora to the finish line.
“Cora even finished before some of the other people,” McCraw said, “and that is pretty cool.”
Jennifer Journey was in charge of the Fun Run and coordinated the starting point for Cora and how she would finish the race.
Since this is Cora’s last year at Hall-Kent, her mom, Jennifer Steele, decided it would be nice for Cora to train for the Fun Run in her P.E. class. The school came together to honor Cora in her training endeavors as a final hooray before she graduates to the middle school.
“We told Cora in August about the training and the Fun Run, and she was excited,” said Steele.
Cora is in a wheelchair and communicates through an electronic device, but is able to walk with her gait or leaning against her teacher’s legs. Every day at school Cora trained for the race by walking outside or in the hall if the weather was bad.
Supporting Cora is no exception for Cora’s peers. Whether it is with class assignments, reading, or training for her Fun Run, they are there to support Cora on her level with what she needs.
“You always want your child to have good friends and that has been hard for Cora,” Steele said, “so it filled my heart to see her classmates encouraging and helping her.”
Cora’s mom said that her expression was priceless when her friends rallied behind her to the finish line.
“Her smile and demeanor completely changed, even the way she carried herself changed,” her mom said.
Cora’s parents have signed her up for the Mercedes Kids Marathon, where kids run the full 26 miles over five months. Her half-mile Monday walks with Mrs. Humphries at school count towards the 26 miles, and Cora will walk the last mile the day of the race to complete her new goal.
As for Mrs. Humphries, she is extremely proud of Cora.
“This is a bittersweet time for me,” she said. “Cora has been with me all day every day and has taught me more than I ever could imagine. She is one special girl who, although I will miss dearly, I know will make new special memories next year at the middle school.”