If you’re looking for the longest shot in the field at this year’s Los Angeles L.A. Marathon in March you’ll find it working out three days a week at the track in Beeman Park in Studio City.
Team ARC, it’s called. The team with the slowest times, longest odds and biggest hearts.
The team that won’t quit no matter how tough and painful it gets out there running and walking 26.2 miles.
Team ARC’s carrying the reputations and dreams of too many kids and adults like them on their shoulders to fail.
Kids born with severe mental and physical disabilities who have been told their entire lives to go play with your own, you’re not good enough to play – to compete – with us.
Yeah? Sez who?
“C’mon, old men, let’s go,” 25-year-old Angela Armenta yells, jogging onto the track at Beeman Park late Thursday afternoon for a team workout.
The young woman born with Down syndrome is laughing and rubbing it in a little because her teammates – the old men – have two L.A. Marathons already under their belts and she’s the rookie.
When Jennifer Davis, activities director for ARC – Activities for Retarded Children – asked Ralph Adame, 48, and his buddy Tim Sathre, 42, what they thought of a girl joining them for the marathon this year they said sure, why not?
“The guys have been so encouraging to her,” Davis says. “They’ve been pushing and inspiring each other. People don’t realize how important health and wellness is for the disabled community, too.”
We realize it. We just don’t pay much attention to it. That’s why national organizations like Special Olympics are so important to remind us what the physically challenged community is capable of.
Anything, if you give them a chance.
ARC’s always been one of my favorite nonprofits in the Valley because it has one of those back stories that make you want to stand up and cheer for them.
It was started in the late 1960s by a small group of local mothers whose children were retarded. Harsh term, but that’s what it was called back then.
They’d meet in a little park every Saturday to let their kids play together because nobody else’s kids seemed to want to play with them.
The mothers made a pact to watch over and protect each other’s “retarded” kids, and they have. Most of the original mothers have passed on, but their kids have stayed together – keeping the old ARC name because if it was good enough for their mothers, it’s good enough for them.
Ralph was born with brain damage. Tim was diagnosed as having mild retardation with autistic and Asperger’s tendencies.
Angela, born with Down syndrome, has two older brothers, a younger sister and two great parents who love her deeply and include her in all the social activities and sports the family enjoys.
Last September they asked Angela if she’d like to join Team ARC and start training for the L.A. Marathon? Angela gave it a couple of seconds’ thought before making up her mind.
“I do it,” she said, smiling. “I do it.”
So here she is on a late Thursday afternoon in early January with a couple of 5K’s and one 10K already under her belt – pushing her older, male teammates and one new member, Antoinette Mendoza, 42, to pick up the pace.
The Los Angeles Marathon is coming up in a couple of months and Team ARC – the longest shot with the biggest heart in the field – has to be ready.
They’re representing a couple of thousand kids and young adults in the Valley just like them – labeled since birth.
No way Team ARC is going to let them down.
If you want to support Angela and Team ARC, more information is available online at www.crowdrise.com/teamangela.