CAVALIER -- Running partners Kyle and Levi Gagner rely on each other for support when they race.
Gagner supplies the foot power for his son, and Levi provides his father with the inspiration.
Levi, 5, the son of Gagner and his wife, Melissa, has a rare form of muscular dystrophy, which prevents him from walking. Doctors diagnosed Levi with Lamin A/C muscular dystrophy, a muscle-wasting disease, in November 2014. In 2015, Gagner began pushing Levi’s jogging stroller in races.
Riding in the stroller has given Levi a mobility he hadn’t before experienced.
“He really enjoyed that feeling of running,” Gagner said. “It’s quite liberating when we’re running.”
Since 2015, father and son have run 14 half-marathons in cities from coast to coast. The races take about 90 minutes, so there is a lot of time for father-son talks.
“Levi’s usually asking me a million questions,” Gagner said. “It’s the most precious time.”
The best part for Levi?
“I get to run with Daddy,” Levi said.
Four years ago, the Gagners launched the Levi’s Hope 5K run/walk in Cavalier. The race begins at 10 a.m. Saturday. Proceeds from the race will be donated to provide travel funds for people with chronic muscular dystrophy and for their families to attend the Cure CMD conference in Chicago later this month.
Saturday’s race is called Levi’s Hope because the Gagners hope that someday there may be a cure for Levi’s disease.
Gagner, who has been running half marathons since 2011, often had pushed his other three children in jogging strollers when he was training for races, so it was natural for him to push Levi, he said. Pushing Levi’s stroller inspires him to keep going when he gets tired and gives him a sense of purpose when he's running, according to Gagner.
Sometimes the father and son dress up in costumes when they race.
“We’ve dressed up as Super Mario characters,” Gagner said.
He and Levi typically draw attention to themselves whether or not they are dressed up as characters and Gagner uses it an opportunity to share with people his strong belief in the hope that comes with his belief in Jesus, no matter life’s circumstances.
“There’s always hope even when the worst thing happens,” Gagner said. “Life on planet Earth really can’t beat us down when we’ve got that security. That hope, ultimately, brings us up.”
IF YOU GO
What: Levi's Hope 5k run/walk
Where: Cavalier Evangelical Free Church, 1006 Main St. West
Check-in: 8:30 a.m. and closes at 9:45 a.m. Saturday
Race start: 10 a.m. Saturday
Cost: $25 for ages 11 and older and $15 for children ages 4 through 10; no cost for children ages 3 and younger and they do not need to register for the race.
More info: www.levishope.com