WAYLAND, Mich. (WOOD) — Racers are preparing to head to the start line for the 46th Amway River Bank Run Saturday. This race is where it all began for 11-year-old Hayli Ruger.

“It’s about to be game on,” Hayli’s dad, Shawn Ruger, said.

Everyone needs a little push to succeed, and helping Hayli along the way are special guardians.

“I’ll have a conversation with a stranger that my daughter is doing a half marathon tomorrow, and they give me this look like, ‘how is that possible,'” Ruger said. “It’s only possible through angels. Angels willing to go train, do the hard work and push her through it and give her the medal and give her the time because everything recorded has Hayli’s name on it.”

Hayli has cerebral palsy. Her parents, Shawn and Melissa, didn’t know Hayli had a disability until she was 9 months old.

Then, doctors told them Hayli had cerebellar hypoplasia, which affects the muscle. Her cerebral palsy diagnosis came later.

“We didn’t know what that looked like moving forward. There’s no handbook for special need care. As we grew, we know what we had to do and that was make sure that she was comfortable and participate in things,” Ruger said.

Hayli’s parents put her in various programs for children with disabilities to keep her engaged despite her not being able to walk or stand.

While searching for activities, the Rugers heard about My Team Triumph Michigan Chapter. It’s an organization that gives adults and kids with disabilities the experience of participating in a race.

“It’s been a joy ever since,” Ruger said.

Hayl’s first-ever race was at the River Bank Run in 2017. Since then, she’s been in more than 50 races. Few things give Hayli as much joy as sitting in the race chair and going through the course.

As the oldest sister of three boys, Hayli has found something she can enjoy on her own.

“I think the main thing is because it’s just for her,” Hayli’s mom, Melissa Ruger said.

Hayli’s dad added, “The excitement to see her do that,  it puts me over the edge to see that she can do these things.

Even though Hayli can’t run the race by herself, her persistence is the real victory.

“That’s the triumph Is her being able to do these things on her own and finishing with a smile on her face and being able to continue to do so,” Ruger said.

Hayli and her angel will participate in the My Team Triumph 25K, which begins at 8:45 a.m. To learn more about the race day schedule, visit the race’s website.