After a big year of helping kids with disabilities chase their dreams, Frame Running Wollongong celebrated the start of the silly season in style.
The non-profit organisation uses specialised frames to provide children with limited mobility the chance to run and play.
Twelve kids turned up to the first session in June 2021, now more than 25 Illawarra kids with mobility challenges participate in the program.
One of the mums who founded the group, Sian Napper, said the kids involved had reached some enormous milestones this year.
“We’re starting to track their heart rate during sessions, and we’ve seen significant improvements in their fitness,” she said.
“Some of the children this year competed in their school athletics carnival, including my daughter Pippa.
“I never thought I would see my daughter run in an event with her school cheering her on.
“Seeing her face when she crossed the finish line, knowing she completed it all by herself without someone pushing her, was so special.
“It’s the simple things that are really empowering.”
They’re not just improving their race times – Frame Running has helped create new friendships as well.
Ms Napper said the program widened the social support network for parents as well as kids.
“I know Pippa has made some beautiful friends, and they support each other through surgeries and catch up on weekends,” she said.
“They encourage each other to run faster or have a laugh even though they go to different schools during the week.
“I know a lot of the families consider each other friends now, and it’s lovely to have that support group.
“We also have beautiful volunteers and sponsors who blow us away with their generosity each week.”
Some 125 participants, family members and volunteers celebrated this month, with a treasure hunt for LEGO donated by Good 360, a frame running race for siblings of participants, and, of course, a visit from Santa himself.
“The children have improved so much this year, it was amazing to see how fast they were getting around to icons through the treasure hunt,” Ms Napper said.
“Their faces just lit up.
“Santa arrived on a frame runner with presents for all the participants and their siblings, and then we all had a lovely afternoon tea together.
“Corrimal Subway donated platters, Dejay Medical donated waterbottles and donuts, Jenhbakes donated Christmas cakes and UniActive donated the venue.
“It’s all those little things that really add up, we couldn’t do this by ourselves.”
The charity has big plans for 2024 – but for now they’re content to bask in the smiles of some very happy kids.