August 12, 2023
July 29 was a day many families won’t soon forget, and neither will the Kizik staff who volunteered. Families with kids who have lost lower limbs converged on Salt Lake City for Running Is a Right’s latest event, and Kizik was there to celebrate (with gifts, of course).
The event was an opportunity for kids who wear prosthetic legs, which are usually covered by insurance, to receive free running blades, which are not. With the cost of running legs sitting around $20,000, most pediatric amputees and their families are priced out.
That’s where Running Is a Right comes in. Managing Director Brooke Raasch founded the organization to make recreational prosthetics more accessible to kids who need them. The nonprofit is a program of the Dave McGillivray Finish Strong Foundation and works with Shriners Children’s to provide kids with running blades and the training to use them.
Families showed up early, some local, some from out of state, all filled with anticipation and maybe even some nerves. But they quickly bonded over shared experiences, with the differences they often feel at school melting away. Here, they got to be fully themselves, smiling, laughing, and playing.
It was powerful for the parents, too. One mom watched with tears in her eyes as her 14-year-old daughter ran for the first time in three years.
Kids raced each other, practiced agility, and played soccer to get the hang of moving on their new blades. Concerned about the learning curve, one Kizik volunteer asked Brooke, "How are they going to play on them if they've never done it?" Brooke's response: a nonchalant, "They'll figure it out."
And they did. They all did it differently, but they did it. As they played, the faster, more experienced kids looked out for those who were still navigating the newness and made sure everyone had a chance to kick the ball.
“There was so much camaraderie, and the kids were just cheering each other on,” a Kizik team member recalled. “It was a great feeling to be there and play the game with them. I’ll never forget it.”
Entirely donation based, Running Is a Right sources fiberglass blades from Levitate, which are free for families and significantly cheaper for donors than their standard carbon-fiber counterparts, making blades more accessible to everyone.
“When you give a child a tool like this and the training to use it properly, it’s transformational,” Brooke said. “Now, instead of being left on the sidelines, they’re out there playing with the other kids.”
Brooke, who has 20 years of experience in the prosthetics industry and is married to a paratriathlete, pointed out the lasting impact of the day.
“It’s like dropping a pebble in a pond and the ripples that go out,” Brooke said. “I know kids that are now competing on their high school track team because they got a blade.”
While the kids played, parents gathered at Kizik’s display table, admiring an assortment of hands-free shoes and even trying them on. Their eyes lit up as they stepped into a pair of Kiziks for the first time. Some even asked to wear them home!
The gift bags, however, were for the kids, who each received a new pair of Pragues. They beamed with pride as their prosthetic feet slid right in—no hands and no help needed. One little girl, whose infectious energy lit up the room, celebrated by doing cartwheels, then posed for the camera to show off her new kicks.
Tearful parents hugged and thanked us for the gift, which meant more to them than we ever imagined.
“I have joked with others that the hardest part of having a prosthetic is shoe shopping,” one mom said. “I have been in tears as I tried to find shoes that were both cute and easily went on her prosthetic foot—it’s surprisingly hard to find!”
She said they’d be a Kizik family for life.
Brooke, also a Kizik fan, couldn’t thank us enough for our partnership and support.
“I think it’s just a reflection on you guys that it’s real. You’re making a product that’s good for that community, and you’re also walking the walk,” he said.
But really, it’s all of us at Kizik who feel lucky. It was an unforgettable day, and we’re grateful we could contribute to the life-changing work that Running Is a Right is doing in the world.
All photos by Running is a Right