Exercise & Fitness

Hospital Hill Donation Empowers Girls

The Hospital Hill Run Foundation donates $10,000 to WIN for KC as one young girl overcomes the odds to cross the race’s finish line.

Thousands participated in the Hospital Hill Run earlier this month, but the race’s impact stretches far beyond the finish line. With the creation last year of the Hospital Hill Run Foundation, funds raised from the annual event benefit other health-focused organizations.

“One of our long-term goals as an organization has been to give back to the Kansas City community,” says Mike Walden, president of the foundation’s board of directors. “Due to the success of our events over the last few years, we’ve developed enough financial stability to help other organizations whose goals align with ours.”

The day before race weekend, the foundation presented a $10,000 grant to WIN for KC, an organization focused on promoting the lifetime value of sports and fitness for women and girls. WIN will use the funds to help fulfill its strategic goal to expand Camp WIN this year. Over the course of four days, the camp introduces girls from across the greater Kansas City community to a variety of sports and fitness activities, as well as WIN for KC’s owned and developed curriculum LIVE ACTIVE.

A photo posted by WIN for KC (@winforkc) on

While the Hospital Hill Run has charity partners, the foundation allows the board to do more through direct financial contributions such as the WIN grant as well as a sizable donation to Girls on the Run of Greater Kansas City made previously. The program for 3rd-6th-grade girls includes a curriculum focused on issues like self-confidence and making healthy choices as well as training for a 5K.

For 9-year-old Ashlynn Miller, the Topeka branch of the program proved life changing. Miller has Spastic Diplegia, a form of cerebral palsy that makes muscle movement stiff or uncoordinated. After receiving Botox injections, numerous leg braces and two surgeries to extend tendons, the last of which left her in a wheelchair for six weeks, Miller heard about Girls on the Run at school and wanted to participate like the other girls.

“My first thought was, ‘Oh my gosh, she can hardly walk now without tripping over her feet, let alone run,” recounts her grandmother, Joyce Kroll. “All these things kept going through my mind—I never told her she couldn’t do it, but as a mom or a grandma, you worry about those things. Her history would have told us she would have never been able to run, not like that.”

Thanks to encouragement from her coaches and steely determination, Miller participated both semesters last year and completed the 5Ks held at the culmination of each Girls on the Run season.

“I never knew I had this passion for running,” Miller says.

Her Children’s Mercy pediatric rehabilitation physician Matt McLaughlin was impressed to learn about her races at a checkup and shared her story with the Hospital Hill Run team. They extended Miller an invitation to run, which both excited her and made her nervous.

“I ended up doing it because I believed in myself,” she explains. Dr. Matt, as she calls McLaughlin, ran the 3.1 miles with her, stopping to stretch on the side of the course when her legs started feeling tight and she was ready to give up.

Instead, she crossed the finish line of her third 5K, her most challenging and rewarding one yet. “I was like, ‘I actually did this.’ It was really exciting to get my medal, like I accomplished something,” Miller says.

As she continues to grow, more surgeries will be necessary, but Miller’s dream is to become a professional runner—and inspire other girls to get running, even if they face challenges. It makes sense given her motto: Never give up, no matter what.

“Nothing is holding you back from doing it,” she says. “If you have a dream, make it come true.”