Valdosta man captures hearts of his community - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Valdosta man captures hearts of his community

February 1, 2007

Valdosta -- He's participated in nearly 20 races in the last two years, all in a standard wheelchair. So the community joined together to help him go those extra miles with a little more ease.

Charlie Mizell was born with spina bifida and has been in a wheelchair all his life. But he's never let that get him down.  "No obstacle can get in my way," he says.

In October of 2005, a friend convinced him to sign up for a local road race, and he's been hooked ever since. "From then on out, I just had a passion for it forever."

And others began to notice too.  "This gentleman just inspired me with his determination to accomplish things that I'd know he'd not accomplished many times before," said Athletic Store Owner Todd Smoot.

Another thing they noticed is Charlie was racing in his every day street chair because the average racing chair costs thousands of dollars.  "It was not designed to do what he's done to that chair, with his passion for doing it. I just don't think that was in the manual," Smoot said.

 "By the end of the race I was racing on flat tires, and that was a struggled race." The other racers were so inspired by Charlie and his determination they began raising money locally to get him the new chair.

"People just started pouring in money. It was very rewarding." Forty-one doners from all over the state contributed, and today, Charlie finally got the chair of his dreams. "I think it's going to be like going from a Chevrolet S-10 to a Cadillac," he exclaimed

But breaking in the new chair isn't as easy as putting on a new pair of running shoes. It will take days for him to acclimate himself but he'll have a support system the whole way. "We'll go out on a course Saturday and run with him a bit," said Smoot. "We'll do it a bit in the parking lot first to make sure he learns to turn and stop and all that."

Now Charlie will work toward his goal of competing in 2008's Peachtree Road Race. Charlie will test out his new chair for the first time Saturday at 8:00 AM at the Get Active Store in Valdosta. All runners in the area are invited to join.


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