Military News

Friday, August 21, 2015

British woman to run AF half-marathon in girl's honor

by Amy Rollins
88th Air Base Wing Public Affairs

8/21/2015 - WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio -- The daughter of two Airmen stationed at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base may cross the finish line of the U.S. Air Force Half Marathon Sept. 19 -- in the arms of either her father or a British woman who is coming to run in her honor.

Grace Golembiewski, 2, the daughter of Tech. Sgt. Paul Golembiewski and Tech. Sgt. Amanda Golembiewski, is part of a group called I Run 4. The group assigns abled runners to individuals who are unable to run themselves. Helen Hart, a woman from Derbyshire, England, was matched on Aug. 4, 2013, with Grace, who was diagnosed with arthrogryposis multiplex congenita at birth.

Arthrogryposis is an umbrella term that describes anyone who has two or more joint contractures -- joints that are stiff and hard to move. Grace has a severe case of this condition as she is affected in all her limbs: fingers, wrists, shoulders, elbows and hips. Grace also has a multi-cystic right kidney. Her right kidney was destroyed by cysts while she was developing in the womb.

Tech. Sgt. Paul Golembiewski is a training and marketing NCO at the 338th Recruiting Squadron, and Tech. Sgt. Amanda Golembiewski is a public health instructor at the U.S. Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine.

The Golembiewski family keeps in touch with Hart via mail, Facebook and daily email messages.

"When we first started this journey, Helen made it a goal to run the total amount of miles from Derbyshire, England, to Dayton," Amanda Golembiewski said. "She is an inspiration to us. When Grace has an accomplishment, Helen celebrates with us by running. When Helen runs an extra five miles or pushes herself on a run, Grace does a little bit more physical therapy that day. They are a team, and Grace wouldn't be where she is at without the love and support of a total stranger, who is now our family."

Whenever Hart runs a race, she sends Grace her medal and bib.

"These medals are hung in Grace's room to remind us that someone else out there is supporting Grace and wants Grace to succeed just as much as we do," she said.

On days when Amanda Golembiewski has felt challenged as a parent of a special needs child, she often receives a message from Hart saying she had run six miles that day or a 5K in Grace's honor. That helps the mother feel she wasn't alone.

"I owe a lot of that to Helen. On days I might have given up, I was reminded that if a person half a world away is running for Grace I can make it through one more day of therapy or have the courage to agree to the next surgery," she said.

Both women's determination has led to real results for Grace. After two years of therapy, six months of serial casting and three surgeries, the 2-and-a-half-year-old is standing and walking with orthotics and a mini-walker. She can stand up to an hour now with assistance.

Amanda Golembiewski also acknowledged the work, care and therapies Grace has received at United Rehabilitation Services of Greater Dayton, where the little girl attends child care.

"Grace being able to stand on her own for 30 seconds and for an hour, assisted, is because of URS and the weekly physical and occupational therapy they do with her," she said.

Grace and her family will be along the running path and at the finish line cheering on Hart and Paul Golembiewski.

"If we are lucky we will be able to have Grace and Helen cross the finish line together, as a team," Amanda Golembiewski said. "Helen has been an inspiration to me and my family as Grace has been for her family. They are two strangers who have formed a bond of love and support. It is truly amazing. They are a team."

The family is excited to meet Hart in person on Sept. 17 and plans to host a large gathering featuring a homemade pasta dinner on Sept. 18, the night before the marathon. Amanda Golembiewski's Air Force "family" from her office also will be in attendance.

"It will be the first time our family gets to meet someone who has selflessly encouraged and supported our daughter," she said.

But the big moment for the Golembiewski family will occur the next day.

"The plan is to have either Helen or my husband carry Grace across the finish line -- depending on who is fresher," Amanda Golembiewski said. "It's going to be a lot of fun."

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