By ALLIE JACKSONupdated Tuesday, July 16, 2013 – 12:30am
More than 150 runners laced-up their sneakers Saturday to run a 5K in Commerce to help ease the burden of medical expenses for a Jefferson toddler in need of a heart transplant.
Braden Knebel, 3, was born with heart problems that have required three surgeries since his birth. His family recently received news that Braden’s heart eventually will give out due to a condition called restrictive cardiomyopathy (RCM), which will require a future transplant.
“The race was so wonderful,” said Braden’s mom, Michelle Knebel. “There were so many people that showed, and they were all talking with us and with Braden. And many were praying with us, which was wonderful.”
The family teamed with the Children’s Organ Transplant Association (COTA) to hold the 5K race at Tanger Outlets on Saturday.
More than $4,000 was raised at the event, which will go directly into the toddler’s COTA account for all medical expenses related to the transplant.
Knebel said the family has a short-term goal of raising $50,000, which will help pay for all of Braden’s needs, including post transplant.
“Our family is so grateful for the love and support of so many to help us take care of our little boy during and after transplant,” Michelle Knebel posted Monday on her son’s Facebook fan page. “Braden’s daddy is a firefighter (with the Jefferson Fire Department), and I stay home to care (of) Braden and his special needs, so with finances tight most of the time now, when (the) transplant comes, it will be even harder. We trust in God that he will provide for us.”
Knebel said they hope to hold a similar race next spring and also are looking to conduct a fall festival in October.
Special guests at the race included the father of Tripp Halstead, Bill, and Dave Nazaroff, the man who rode his bicycle from New York to Georgia last month to raise funds for the Halstead family.
Knebel said she has felt a close connection to the Halstead family since interacting with Tripp’s mother, Stacy, on Facebook.
“We wanted to be able to help support each other somehow,” Knebel said. “Their situation is a completely different situation, but we both have children with special needs and now we live about five minutes from one another.”
Tripp suffered a traumatic brain injury after a large tree limb hit him on his head in October.
Another special runner that morning was Braden’s older brother, Carder. The 7-year-old attended the 5K in flip-flops in support of his little brother.
“He came to … the event and wasn’t planning on running. But that little boy ran his heart out for his brother,” a tearful Knebel said. “He decided he wanted to run for his little brother and ran that entire race in flip-flops.”
Follow Braden’s story on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/CotaForBradenK.