Disabled find new way to compete at Yippee 5K

Friday, October 1, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 11:52 p.m. CDT, Saturday, July 19, 2008

Nellie Owen is used to a challenge.

Owen, 50, who broke her back and was partially paralyzed after a car accident 27 years ago, was the second disabled person in the United States to graduate from a veterinary school when she got her MU degree in 1998.

She will face another challenge Saturday: her first 5K road race.

“I hope I make it,” she said.

Owen said she is looking forward to the Yippee 5K in downtown Columbia.

The wheelchair division of the first-time event starts at 9 a.m. from Eighth Street and Walnut. The run/walk division will start at 9:10 a.m. at the same location.

The race is a fund-raiser for the Cedar Creek Therapeutic Riding Center, a group that gives individuals with disabilities a chance to experience horseback riding.

“We hadn’t heard of a wheelchair race in Columbia,” said Suzanne de Chazal, one of the race planners. “But we felt that providing a broad opportunity for as many people as possible to participate is consistent with the Cedar Creek philosophy.”

Every year Cedar Creek has several fund-raising events, including a Ride-a-thon at Three Creeks State Forest. But participants need a horse to partake in the activity.

“The idea for the Yippee 5K really came as a suggestion from a lot of volunteers over the years who didn’t have a horse to participate in our annual Ride-a-thon,” de Chazal said.

Only a small number of people have signed up and race director Laura Wacker said she is expecting anywhere between 100 and 200.

The race course is the same layout as the popular St. Patrick’s Day 5K. Wacker said using the same course might attract the competitive runners from that race, giving them a chance to improve their past times.

Owen is among those hoping for a good turnout. Throughout her life she has had a passion for working with and riding horses. She said Cedar Creek has kept that passion alive.

Owen’s involvement in the organization has grown and she has served on the Cedar Creek board of directors for a year helping organize fund raisers.

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