Ben Franklin Bridge run benefits Larc School in Bellmawr

Published by The Philadelphia Inquirer

By Melanie Bavaria, Inquirer Staff Writer

POSTED: November 07, 2011

Darcie and Jackson Waicus of Voorhees were at the finish line on a sparkling Sunday morning, water bottles at the ready for participants in a race and walk to benefit a Camden County school for disabled students.

Darcie, 8, and Jackson, 10, both have Angelman syndrome, a genetic disorder that affects development and neurological functions, but they were all smiles as they offered their wares to many of the 4,000 participants in the annual Cooper-Norcross Run the Bridge.

Cooper University Hospital and the Norcross Foundation were the event's main sponsors, along with health insurer AmeriHealth New Jersey. Proceeds went to the Larc School in Bellmawr, which provides special education services for about 90 children with moderate to severe disabilities from age 3 to 21.

"The school is an amazing place for special students. They are treated like they are real people. . . . I cannot speak highly enough about the staff at the school. They really put all they have - their blood, sweat, and tears - into these kids," said Darcie and Jackson's mother, Julie.

Entrants could run a 10-K course, back and forth across the Ben Franklin Bridge and through part of Camden, or walk a two-mile course. For many, the real draw were the students who eagerly greeted them at Campbell's Field at the end of the race.

"It's very rewarding," said Stacie Halscheid, Paralympics coach at the school and a staffer there for nine years. "They call us 'Larc Lifers' - if you can do it and you can handle it, you get sucked in."

Linda Teschko of Gloucester City, whose 19-year-old autistic son, Mikey, attends Larc, had nothing but compliments for the staff.

"My son wouldn't have half the opportunities he's had if it weren't for this school. We consider it a large family. They know every single child," she said.

Heidi and Michael Brunswick of Mount Laurel concur. They have worked to make the run a community event. Their son Ryan, 7, is multi-disabled and has been a student at Larc for the last four years.

Since then, Heidi Brunswick, who coaches the Cherry Hill West High School girls field hockey team, has led the team in various volunteer activities in support of Larc. Her husband, dean of students at Moorestown Friends School, has a similar task with that school's soccer team.

"Our son can't run or walk, so we run for him," Heidi Brunswick said. "It's the least we can do. Hopefully, one day he can stand here while we run and meet us at the end."

Original article can be found here.