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John Allen Atkins

John Allen Atkins, age 12, has been busy walking around his neighborhood.

“I’m talking to people, and leaving fliers at homes and businesses,” he says.

Two weeks before TelAbility’s 3rd Annual Run Walk & Roll, his team had already raised close to $1,000 in donations, and expected more donations to follow.

The 5K run or 1 mile walk or roll benefits children with disabilities, such as John Allen, a child with spina bifida. This year’s event took place on Saturday, May 14, 2011, from 8:00AM to noon at the Booth Amphitheatre in Cary, NC.

More information is available at the TelAbility website (

Joshua Alexander, MD, a pediatric rehabilitation physician (physiatrist) at the UNC Department of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation, is the founder of TelAbility, which provides comprehensive, coordinated, family-centered care to children with disabilities across North Carolina, and offers education, training, and peer support to their parents and providers.

Over the past two years, more than 1,600 parents and providers have taken part in over 100 TelAbility videoconferences. The real-time videoconferences have provided educational updates and continuing education to providers across the state and have increased access to specialized medical services for families of children with disabilities, who otherwise would need to travel hundreds of miles for their care.

“Dr. Alexander is a great doctor, and he’s fun,” John Allen says. His parents agree, which helped them decide to chair the event this year, while balancing their jobs and taking care of their three children.

“We wanted to help put a family face to the event,” says Kathy Atkins, John Allen’s mother. “We felt led to help broaden the event to be statewide. Dr. Alexander has helped John Allen for his entire life, so this was our portion of being able to give back and make the event better.”

This year, the family has helped with lots of ideas, logistics and getting the word out. In addition, they have been partnering with a spina bifida support group to publicize the event state-wide. “We’re getting the word out by talking to people directly,” Kathy Atkins notes. “In this economy, even large corporations are cutting back, but they could donate a product, provide services or gift packages. We’re reaching new vendors the old-fashioned way, in person.”

Each year, the event offers many ways to get involved: participants may donate, volunteer, join an existing team, or organize a team as a team captain.

“I am so appreciative of the efforts of all of our volunteers, who have taken time from their busy schedules,” Dr. Alexander says. “I especially want to thank the Atkins family for serving as our event chairs this year. Not only have they done a wonderful job raising their three children, but they have also dedicated themselves towards helping make this year’s event the most successful one—and most fun one—yet.”

Last year, John Allen had the idea to invite Stormy, the Hurricanes mascot, to the event.

“We called and there is actually a Stormy rep that takes care of Stormy appearances,” Kathy Atkins recalls. “A lot of kids and families enjoyed Stormy last year – he made it fun as they were waiting for the event to start.”

Kathy Atkins continues to consult with her son for ideas.

“The children’s perspective is different,” she observes. “The kids keep you focused on having a good day amid details, like traffic issues – so that ultimately the kids have a good time.”