MARINE CORPS AIR STATION NEW RIVER, N.C- Marines lent their legs to those who couldn’t run as they flooded the streets of Marine Corps Air Station New River, N.C., April 13. As their chants echoed and the unit colors flew, they took turns pushing children in race chairs alongside other Marines.
More than 220 Marines assigned to Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 26, Marine Aircraft Group 26, 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing, gathered to run with disabled children as part of an Ainsley’s Angels East Carolina chapter event at the air station.
“It’s truly amazing,” said Britni Herson, the local ambasador for the Ainsley’s Angels East Carolina chapter. “Not only as a parent of a disabled child but as a member of the organization, it’s a great feeling to see a unit come out and volunteer like this.”
Ainsley’s Angels is an organization that focuses on providing children with disabilities the opportunity to be included in runs that range in distances from five to 50 kilometers. Volunteers are assigned as angels to push the athlete riders and cross the finish line.
According to Herson, the runs help the children feel like they are no different than anyone else and capable of accomplishing great feats.
“I loved it,” said Lance Cpl. Jasmine Elisalde, an aviation ordnance systems technician assigned to MALS-26. “ It’s not only a great way to help out the community but it also brings smiles to all the Marines.”
As the Marines lead formations with the athlete riders, many of them dressed in Easter themed costumes to match the spring season. The Marines exchanged smiles with the riders and their families as they came together for the event.
“The Marine Corps is honor, courage and commitment,” said Elisalde. “We are supposed to be top dog and set the example by volunteering. It shows that we care a lot about not only eachother but the citizens in America.”
According to Lt. Col. Edward H. Carpenter, the commanding officer of MALS-26, Ainsley’s Angels is something the squadron first got involved with through one of their own Marines’ involvement.
“Staff Sgt. Donald Toro is one of our Marines at MALS-26,” said Carpenter. “His son is disabled and he’s been a part of the program for awhile now. A lot of Marines would ask him about the program and how to get involved.”
According to Carpenter, opening the event to all the Marines of the squadron was a way to give everyone the oportunity to volunteer and bring the unit together.
“We are just living out the guidance of our current commandant,” said Carpenter. “He told us in his message to seize the initiative. He told the Marines to go out and have fun, socialize with each other and do something different. That’s what we came out here to do today.”