On New Year’s Eve 2015, Denna Laing suffered a devastating spinal cord injury while playing in an outdoor game at Gillette Stadium with the National Women’s Hockey League Boston Pride. She’s needed the assistance of a wheelchair since then.
Her story has inspired countless members of the hockey community, including Bobby Carpenter, the 53-year-old Stanley Cup-winning former NHL standout. He ran the Boston Marathon last year for the first time, and wanted inspiration for running it again.
His idea: Running it with someone that was unable to run it themselves.
So he reached out to Dennis Laing, Denna’s dad.
“At first I was a little hesitant just because I didn’t know really how I was going to feel about sitting in a chair,” Denna Laing told Amalie Benjamin of NHL.com.
But Denna was receptive to the idea once it was clear that she and Carpenter could use this moment to raise funds for Journey Forward, the rehabilitation facility that’s helped Laing in her recovery from that spinal injury.
On Monday, using a special racing wheelchair, Carpenter pushed Laing against the finish line at 4:32:30.
From NHL.com, a little more on their equipment and preparation:
They have leaned on others who have done this before, absorbing advice about how to stay warm, how to be comfortable, how to push the chair optimally, how much to stop and how quickly to run. Those tips have been invaluable in calculating how to attack the race and in easing their minds in the run-up to the event. That has included some advice from the Hoyts, the father and son who ran 32 Boston Marathons before retiring in 2014.
“I pretend I’m doing what he did, but it’s not even close because we have new technology. We have new equipment,” Carpenter said of Dick Hoyt, who pushed his son Rick in more than 1,000 races. “I can’t imagine what he had to go through 25 years ago. I can’t imagine.”
The initial fundraising goal for the duo was $53,000, and as of Monday they’re raised over $80,000.
As for the experience of competing in the Marathon, Laing said: “My voice is gone because I said hello to everybody in the crowd. I felt like everybody was screaming my name. It was so awesome.”
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