Walk, run or roll: inclusive 5K helping those with disabilities find accessibility

‘We Carry Together 5k’ hosted at Purdue University Fort Wayne campus
Published: May. 28, 2022 at 10:42 PM EDT
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FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WPTA21) - What started as a need for a personal adventure, quickly evolved into helping others ‘redefine accessiblity’. About six years ago, Kevan Chandler and his friends embarked on a journey across Europe. But before that, they had to find a solution to a major obstacle: Chandler’s wheelchair. You see, Chandler has a form of spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) which impairs his ability to walk. Out of that challenge, Chandler developed a backpack which allowed his friends to carry him on trips across the world. Now, both his book, and non-profit are called ‘We Carry Kevan’. His mission today, is to get that backpack to people and families so they can too, leave their wheelchairs behind (at least for a little bit).

That’s where the 5K comes in. Halsey Blocher, who also has SMA, reached out to Chandler offering to organize a fundraiser to give the ‘We Carry Kevan’ backpacks away for free. “We started dreaming, and came up with the 5K because it would be something that would bring people together and it’s kind of a physical activity,” Chandler told us. “And the backpack is made for being outside and doing stuff. We thought it was fitting for the spirit of what we do.” Saturday, that idea came to fruition, with the first ‘We Carry Together 5K’ hosted at Purdue University Fort Wayne. Over 130 people attended physically and virtually — essential support to keep the non-profit making a global difference. “We have about 750 backpacks in 35 countries,” he said. “I would say out of the 750, maybe a little more than half of those were given away for free to families, and we would just like to do more of that.”

Once a family receives a backpack, they’ll maintain communication with Chandler’s sister, Connie, who also works for the organization. “We’re an accessible family,” she explained. “Having two wheelchairs in our family, we know that medical equipment is expensive. And that often limits what people are able to do.” While the money raised is helpful, bringing awareness to inclusivity may have been just as important. “It’s not really about able-bodied people helping disabled people,” Connie shared. “It’s really about recognizing that we all have need, and we all have something to bring to the table.”

“Going on a 5k like this together, with all sorts of wheels — whether it was wheelchairs, or strollers, or bikes or scooters or whatever, it was beautiful!” she continued. “We want more people to see that disabled people and able people have a lot in common in what we can give each other, and how we can bless and benefit each other’s lives.”

After participants crossed the finish line, many remained at the campus for several hours, enjoying the live music and choice of food trucks. Organizers hope to see another event like this, in the near future — potentially even bringing them to other cities across the U.S. Just as he hoped, several people were using the backpack Chandler created, to take part in the ‘We Carry Together’ 5K.

“I love seeing that something that I just put together something for fun,” he told us, “for doing something fun with friends, has turned into something that can give people a different kind of experience that draws their family closer to each other and lets them be places that they couldn’t otherwise be, and maybe fulfill some dreams they thought were impossible.”

You can find more information about We Carry Kevan here.

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