GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — As thousands of runners fill the streets of downtown Grand Rapids Saturday, there is one person who will be missed.
“I’m running for Annabelle,” said Matt Hop, an angel with myTEAM TRIUMPH. “I want to give her one last ride and carry her spirit through the race.”
Annabelle was a captain, or an athlete with a disability, who participated in races thanks to the help of myTEAM TRIUMPH angels — or runner assistants — like Hop.
He said the first time Annabelle ran with them, she played a joke her team.
“She decided to make her O2 sensor go off. On and off. On and off. On and off,” he said. “So these angels were sprinting from aid station to aid station. There was nothing wrong with it. I said to her mom, ‘I think it’s just Anabelle telling them she wanted to go faster.’”
Annabelle died this year from natural causes.
On Saturday, Hop will push a blue stroller center stage to form a flying V salute in honor of Annabelle’s memory.
“Typically, it’s a military salute to a fallen soldier or to remember somebody of honor,” Hop said. “These captains and angels are all part of our family. We love them, we will never forget them. But this is one way that we can honor them and push her specifically this week one last time.”
myTEAM TRIUMPH started in West Michigan more than a decade ago. Since its inception, more than 500 captains have been ushered across race finish lines.
“There are things we take for granted on race day,” said Terence Reuben, co-founder of myTEAM TRIUMPH. “Like signing up for the race, getting excited about picking up our packets, going down and being part of the energy and event and then crossing the finish line and getting the medal.”
Reuben said it is an honor to help captains experience completing a race for perhaps their first and only time.