It’s race day. The runners step up to the line. They pause to reflect on the hurdle’s of life they have leaped in preparation for this race. The sound of their own breath becomes increasingly audible as they attempt to clear their mind and focus on the race at hand. The starting pistol sounds. Swiftly the runners eject from the starting line with no other thought than to perform their best. As an experienced runner, Amy Waggoner knew this feeling all too well; but in 2009 circumstances placed her in the ready position at a starting line of a different sort.
Amy Waggoner has been an elementary physical education instructor at Strong Rock Christian Academy since 2007. She has an academic background in physical education and health, as well as a Master’s Degree in Education. Fondly referred to as Coach….she is known throughout the Henry County school system for her zeal in promoting positive physical health experiences for children.
In 2001, she and a friend started the first youth running clubs in the county. According to Amy, the club started as a small group of elementary school children but quickly spread to other schools in the area. “Our running clubs have brought families together”, she said of her experience over the years, “because it’s a sport that the entire family can do together.”
In 2009, already a mother two, she and her husband were delighted by the news they would be expecting a new addition to their family. That September, Amy gave birth to their third daughter, Kip, who was born with Down Syndrome. Although the news came as a surprise, she was determined to learn how to care for the unique needs of her daughter.
She took a year off from teaching to care for her new baby and support her through numerous surgeries, including one to repair a hole in her heart. “The more that I learned about Kip’s strength, the more I discovered my own,” she said as she reflected back. It was during this time Amy’s sister gave her a book authored by Chris Gillespie, founder of “Team 413 Gracerunner Ministry”, entitled Gracerunner: Faith on the Run.
Gillespie was first known for running races wearing a t-shirt with the number 413, inspired by the biblical scripture in Philippians 4:13. This was Chris’ way of displaying his Christian faith to others. What started as a t-shirt, sparked a ministry movement throughout the country of endurance athletes under the umbrella of “Team 413 Clubs.” The clubs not only focus on athletic performance, but also provide an opportunity for athletes to fellowship with other Christians.
In his book, Gillespie shares passages of confidence, perseverance, courage, and strength. After reading the book, Amy knew if Kip could brave this new world, she could do something bold and brave as well. Amy contacted Gillespie to join his national team and applied to charter a “Team 413 Club” at Strong Rock.
Now, a few years later, Amy has grown her team to 85 members strong and her club has been lauded as the largest “Team 413 Club” in the nation. The club consists of students in grades 3-5 who want to learn more about having a relationship with God, enjoy the lifelong sport of running, spend quality time with friends, and participate in local races which support great causes. The club meets twice a week and participates in local walks/runs once a month. “Some of the kids don’t really love running but they love the fellowship,” she said, “and we still have 6th and 7th graders that come back to participate.”
It was legendary five time International Cross Country World Champion, Doris Brown Heritage, who said it best, “When you put yourself on the line in a race and expose yourself to the unknown, you learn things about yourself that are very exciting.” Amy has remained humble about stepping out on faith and embarking on this huge undertaking saying, “It was because of Kip that I felt inspired to do this.” Step up to the line, step out on faith and run the race intended for you.