By: Jaime Rafferty
It’s hard to live in Owensboro and not be acquainted with the special story of Karlie Hempel and her running partner and dear friend, Lauren Tucker. Together these two young ladies, with the help of Jeff Miller, Amanda Owen, and Karlie’s mom, Kathy Hempel, make up Team Karlie!
The mission of Team Karlie is: To provide people with physical disabilities the use of a special jogging stroller so they can participate in the sport of running. Team Karlie wants others who can’t walk or run to experience the energy and excitement of racing. Those with physical disabilities often feel frustrated by their limited mobility and the sport of running is something they would not be able to experience without the use of the special jogging strollers. Also the runners who push the strollers also experience a joy they won’t soon forget.
Kathy Hempel, Karlie’s mom, speaks with passion as she shares about Team Hoyt, the father/son team that inspired the five to begin a journey of their own.
Team Hoyt, comprised of father, Dick Hoyt and son Rick (who has Cerebral Palsy), began participating in races in the spring of 1977 when Rick told his father that he wanted to participate in a 5-mile benefit run for a young man who been paralyzed in an accident. Dick agreed to push Rick in his wheelchair, though coming in next to last, they finished all five miles. It was that evening that Rick told his father, “Dad, when I’m running, it feels like I’m not handicapped.”
The Hoyt family inspires others that all people, regardless of physical disabilities, strive for an experience some think is impossible. This inspiration came to life in Owensboro through the formation of Team Karlie.
Never in Team Karlie’s wildest dreams could they see an impact like Team Hoyt, so imagine Kathy ’s surprise recently when she opens an e-mail to find an inquiry if the team would consider appearing on the Katie Couric Show (KCS), live, in New York City?! She asked herself, “Is this for real?”
KCS shared they had seen the Team Karlie website and wanted to fly up the 5 founding members of the team to the show; Karlie, Lauren, Jeff, Amanda and Kathy.
The show informed Kathy they were doing a program on the Hoyt family and those that had been positively influenced by this remarkable father and son duo.
Team Karlie agreed to be on the show. Kathy admits, the next few days were a whirlwind. Before they knew it, she, Karlie and Lauren were in New York, pre-taping before the actual show. They were interviewed for an hour and a half about Team Karlie as well inspiration given to them by the Hoyts.
Producers shared with Kathy that the reason for the show was that Dick, now 72, and Rick, 52, were planning to retire and they wanted to show the men the legacy they were leaving. Kathy said teams have been formed all over the United States and even across the world, leaving them all the more excited they were chosen to take part. It was surreal, says Kathy, to share that stage with the men who serve as their inspiration for Team Karlie.
Team Karlie was surprised when Katie announced Easter Seals donated 8 additional strollers that will allow more individuals in the Owensboro – Daviess County area, who do not have the ability to run, to feel the freedom of the run/ride.
Kathy says the experience would have perfect, except for an unfortunate turn of events. Jeff and Amanda missed their connecting flight in Atlanta, due to bad weather. The beauty in it all is that regardless of them meeting Dick and Rick, both Jeff and Amanda (with the rest of Team Karlie) have inspired many others, right here in Owensboro, to be a part of something bigger than themselves!
Just as the Hoyt’s have served as role models to Team Karlie, Team Karlie challenges us all to take the ride of our life by pushing us beyond what we think is possible and not be handicapped by mental, emotional or physical limitations!
Check your local listings to check out Owensboro’s own Team Karlie on The Katie Couric Show, July 29, 2014.