Dozens of athletes with physical challenges are getting a new opportunity to get active. The Challenged Athlete's Foundation hosted a running clinic Saturday morning in Mission Bay. There are athletes of all ages. Many are children, who've had an amputation, or were born with a physical disability.
Saturday’s clinic began with a surprise presentation of a new prosthetic running leg for 10-year-old Jonah Villamil from Chula Vista. The prosthetic was paid for through a grant from Challenged Athletes Foundation.
“I was just really excited when I got it and I just felt so happy when I got it,” said Jonah.
Within minutes of receiving his new prosthetic, Jonah was running in the grass with his three brothers.
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Jonah’s leg was amputated last year after battling a rare blood disease called HLH.
“Because he was really sick his body went into septic shock. His organs were failing him and that’s when they told us he had a 10% chance of living,” said Rhoda Villamil, Johan’s mother.
Jonah survived thanks to a bone marrow transplant from his little brother, but the disease killed the bone tissue in Johan’s leg.
“Jonah had just competed in a jiu-jitsu tournament. We didn’t understand. 'He’s healthy. How can he be this sick?'” said Rhoda Villamil.
Jonah’s parents were hesitant to set a date for the amputation. It was Jonah who pushed his parents to set a date for the procedure.
“He wanted it on his birthday. He wanted to get it on his brother’s birthday. He wanted it done so he could be the best version of himself,” said Rhoda Villamil.
Besides getting a new prosthetic, he is also receiving coaching on how to run and walk with it. Challenged Athletes Foundation has helped many people get a running leg, an item that is not covered by insurance and could cost anywhere between $15 thousand and $30,000.
“Most kids just want to run. You can see that. All they want to do is get out and be active and we want to give them the means to be as fast as they want to be and as active as they want to be,” said Travis Ricks, Program Director at Challenged Athletes Foundation.
Because of his disease, Jonah may have his other leg amputated. For now, he’s showing that even the most traumatic injury can’t slow him down.