A child’s journey to health has inspired her new family to form a new running club designed to help foster children build confidence and a sense of belonging.
When Niya came to live with her foster family, she was 3 1/2 months old and weighed less than eight pounds. A victim of severe neglect, she faced a seemingly endless list of negative medical labels: failure to thrive, malnourishment, torticollis from being left in a crib for too long.
At age 3, Niya was diagnosed with cerebral palsy. An MRI showed so many dead areas in her brain that her neurologist said she shouldn’t even be able to walk.
But she does walk. And now at age 4, she can also swim the butterfly stroke, ride a bike without training wheels and read. Walking is the least of her concerns; now Niya can run.
Niya’s journey has inspired her new family to form a new running club designed to help foster children build confidence and a sense of belonging. Sunday afternoon training runs begin in September.
Niya has overcome many of the obstacles caused by the neglect she endured during her first few weeks of life. Speech, occupational and physical therapists have helped tremendously, but much of her progress is due to the dedication of her foster family.
Brian and Sue Golbus of Irmo have fostered Niya since the beginning and are now in the process of adopting her. Along with their children – Alexa, 15; Ashley, 15; Megan, 13, and Tyler, 10 – they have worked tirelessly to help Niya reach important developmental milestones.
When she began to drag her left leg as she learned to walk, her brother and sisters helped teach her how to correct the problem.
“It was amazing to watch Alexa, Ashley, Megan and Tyler constantly working with her,” Sue Golbus said. “Whether it was reading to her, or helping her move her left leg when she crawled or walked. It was amazing to watch their determination to make this child who she is today.”
Niya likes trying to keep up with her athletic siblings. When she saw her brother Tyler was a swimmer, she wanted to swim. When she saw her sisters were runners, she wanted to run. And she did.
It was after seeing the way she beamed with confidence after running five kilometers for the first time that her siblings realized running wasn’t just good for Niya’s physical fitness, it also was good for her self-esteem.
The older Golbus children began to wonder if the pride Niya had felt after training to run a 5K could help other foster children as well. That’s when they came up with the idea for a running club.
“We wanted to teach children that by meeting the goals they have set in running that they can use the same positive mindset to overcome obstacles in their lives,” Alexa said.
Megan came up with a name: Run for a Change.
“The goal of our organization is to help foster children build their self-esteem, self-confidence and self-worth,” said Ashley.
Participants will set goals for themselves, then gather once a week at Riverfront Park to work toward meeting them. The kids have lined up sponsors, including Starbucks, Earth Fare and Panera Bread, to provide snacks and drinks at each meeting. Fleet Feet in Irmo has agreed to donate new and used shoes to participants who need them.
Run for a Change will meet from 3-4:30 p.m. on Sundays beginning Sept. 1 at the entrance to Riverfront Park, 312 Laurel St. The club is free and open to all foster children and their foster families. Licensed foster parents will be present to supervise.
The Golbus family says they’ve noticed a positive change in Niya since she began running, and they’re hopeful that what inspired her will inspire other foster children as well.
“She has become more confident in herself,” Alexa said. “It carries over to other parts of her life.”