Grant Berthiaume and Paul Erway had the opportunity in 2010 to compete in the greatest race for wheelchair athletes in Oita, Japan. While there, they asked each other: “What is next… what will be our next goal?” They had discussed runners competing in a marathon in every state. However, they knew that whenever you set a goal, you not only need to set it BIG but to also have a timeline for it to come to fruition. They didn’t want to settle for what would be easy: 50 marathons in 52 weeks. They believed a challenge of 50 marathons in 50 weeks would show our determination to get our message out about spinal cord injuries and the need to help those who survive… survive life.

Paul Erway visits Rehab Facilities quite often through his position as Rehab Products Consultant for Superior Van & Mobility. He sees the work that Dr. Susan Harkema is accomplishing as one of the leading NeuroRecovery Networks (NRN) for the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation (CDRF). Erway witnessed a young guy in his teens shortly after his accident with no movement in his arms, wearing a halo brace bolted directly into his young skull. Then five months later, Erway observed the same young man walking down the hall of the rehab with just a cane. This is what CDRF is all about so Grant and Paul knew that together they needed to get this message out.

The two wheelchair athletes knew there were runners completing the 50 marathons in 50 states in 50 days. However, there is not much attention or media coverage given to wheelchair athletes’ effort at such events. That is when they became determined to compete in actual sanctioned marathons, allowing them the opportunity to also have time before each event to reach out to the local hospital or rehab in that area about spinal cord injury survivors, research and treatment. This would allow them to let the therapists know how much spinal cord injury victims appreciate their help, but to also reach out to patients in each of these facilities.

Having competed in 26 states in 26 weeks, the two athletes don’t consider their challenge successful because they crossed the finish lines. Their greatest win is the great feeling when they received a call or email from a location saying that a particular patient had now expressed interest in a sport and has given new energy to their therapy to accomplish more now than before the racers’ talks.

* * *

The Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation is dedicated to curing spinal cord injury by funding innovative research, and improving the quality of life for people living with paralysis through grants, information and advocacy. Your donation to this foundation will help people like Paul, Grant and Aaron. Their stories are featured on this website as an example of people who once walked and ran… who now use wheelchairs because of circumstances in their lives they did not expect. However, they did not just give up; they persevered and now challenge you to help them and others with spinal cord injuries.

50 marathons… 50 states… 50 weeks