Fayette County News

Fayette County


Race for Riley returns Apr. 23, 24

Waynette Peek was inspired to start Race for Riley for her daughter after she was diagnosed with Mitochondrial Disease. The year’s race, the 12th annual edition, again benefits Riley’s school, The Joseph Sams School.

The 12th Annual Race for Riley returns later this month, and it has become a beacon for hope for parents of children with special needs. Started by Waynette Peek, Race for Riley honors her daughter, Riley, and the special needs school that makes a world of difference for her and so many lives, The Joseph Sams School. Race for Riley raises money for The Joseph Sams School to enable the school to continue its mission of providing the best possible education and therapeutic services to children who are intellectually, physically, or developmentally challenged.
Riley was diagnosed with Mitochondrial Disease the day before her second birthday. The disease caused her to be non-verbal, have abnormal brain function, gastro-intestinal problems, muscle failure and delayed development. Currently, there is no cure. The average life expectancy is late childhood or early adulthood.
“Today, Riley is 14 years old, and we cope with her disease with the help of multiple specialists and an incredible special needs school, The Joseph Sams School,” says Waynette.
A day of warmth and love actually grew out of sadness.
“After Riley’s diagnosis, I was in a dark place. I was grieving the loss of having a ‘normal’ child, not doing normal mother-daughter things like getting her ready for prom, being there for when she got married, having my daughter become a mother,” remembers Waynette. “I needed that time to grieve, but, thankfully, it wasn’t long. I decided to pull myself out of this lonely, dark place and accept my new normal.”
The family picked up the pieces and moved forward.
“I wanted to make a difference in her life, so I jumped in with both feet and decided to help her and to quit feeling sorry for myself. I also had an older son that needed his mommy, too.”
She went to a symposium on Mitochondrial Disease and took a class on fundraising, where she was inspired to start a 5K.
“I was determined to make a difference, and, with no training, I organized the 1st Annual Race for Riley with the help of my family and friends. It was meant to be, because that first year $93,000 was raised.”
For the last 10 years, The Joseph Sams School has been the beneficiary of the money raised, a “thank you” for all they have done for Riley.
“JSS is Riley’s home away from home. It’s a safe place for her, and, with her being non-verbal, I am extremely cautious with her. There, she is loved for her abilities, not disabilities,” says Waynette. “Riley is challenged on a daily basis. She is very happy each morning and loves school. The teachers are amazing. Not only do they support the students, but the families as well.”
On Saturday, Apr. 23, Heritage Christian Church in Fayetteville will play host to the 5K run/walk, 1 mile fun run, and tot trot. You can run on a grass course, through the woods, and around a scenic lake. Awards will also be given in the different age groups.
On Apr. 24, the bike ride sponsored by Atlanta Trek with 10-, 30-, and 62-mile options takes place on a rolling course through scenic Chattahoochee Hills.
Entry fees are just $25 for the run, $30 for the ride, or $45 for both before Apr. 15.
For more information about the event and the school, visit www.raceforriley.org and www.josephsamsschool.org.

By Christopher Dunn

Managing Editor Christopher Dunn has been with the Fayette County News since 2011, in addition to running Fayette Victory magazine. He is a graduate of Fayette County schools, as well as a graduate of Georgia State University with a degree in journalism. Follow him on twitter @fayettesports.