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Cadets Organize Benefit for Local Girl

Thursday, Apr. 18, 2013

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Cadets Organize Benefit for Local Girl

By Cale Patterson, features senior writer, in The Utah Statesman, Thursday, April 18, 2013

USU’s 860th Cadet Wing and the Arnold Air Society will be sponsoring its third-annual Braveheart Race Saturday, April 20, which will be held at the USU cross-country course. Participants will be able to register for either a five-kilometer or 10k run. The race will begin at 10 a.m. and all proceeds will go to support Melanie Clawson, a five year-old Logan resident diagnosed with severe autism.

Participants can register online until Thursday at midnight or in person on race day.

“We’re expecting well over 300 runners — maybe 400 or more, which would be awesome,” said Cody Palmer, a committee member from the Cadet Wing. “The majority comes from the runners, but individual donations can make a big difference.”

Kirk Dial, committee leader in charge of selecting community members who benefit from the race and organizing and running the event, said they hope to raise a minimum of $3,000.

“In the state of Utah, autistic problems are not covered by insurance,” he said. “So basically, anybody that has a child or a family member that has autism, their insurance company will not cover any of their needs, such as therapy or whatever it might be, because it’s long-term. We felt that their family could benefit from this the most because everything that they have to do it out of pocket.”

The annual race is held in order to benefit local families and individuals who are in financial need, generally as a result of medical expenses. Committee members at the Cadet Wing review a list each year of potential candidates and then try to determine what individuals stand most in need.

“We select an individual and then request permission to sponsor them in this race,” Dial said. “We try to invite anybody and everybody to either come and donate to the cause or run in the race.”

Clawson’s uncle, Mike Swanson, has been involved extensively with the fundraiser through his family ties and his affiliation with the Cadet Wing.

“I’ve been acting as an intermediary,” he said. “Because she’s my niece, I thought it was expedient that I should help.”

Swanson said the expenses incurred through Clawson’s autism, as well as other disorders, some of which include a heart murmur, scoliosis and a sensory disorder, are often difficult for her parents to sustain financially.

“She takes special classes that her parents have a hard time keeping her in because it’s hard to find a grant for the money,” he said.

Despite her condition and the development issues accompanying it, Swanson said his niece is a joy to be around.

“Melanie is a sweet five year-old girl without a voice of her own because she doesn’t talk, but you know that she just loves life,” he said. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone that’s ever been around her that didn’t instantly love her.”

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