Four years ago, an 11-year-old Samantha “Sam” Hoagland wanted to make a difference, and make a difference she did. Inspired by her uncle Kevin Hoagland, who suffered a home accident at age 18 that left him paralyzed, Sam chose to forgo her 11th birthday party and, instead, began the “Run for Those Who Can’t” to raise funds for the Central Jersey Spinal Cord Association (CJSCA). Sam’s uncle, who at age 52 has spent most of his life as a quadriplegic, founded the CJSCA.
This year marked the fifth annual Run for Those Who Can’t, and the earnings will be added to the $12,000 raised in the first four years of the 5K. This year approximately 100 participants enjoyed the beautiful weather, marking the largest group in the event’s history.
Not to be outdone, Sam’s siblings, including 14-year-old twins Kayleigh and Jack, 12-year-old Liam, and 7-year-old Quinn, join her in her fundraising efforts. The older of the Hoagland Five also gave up their birthday parties, but Quinn still celebrates with a party due to her young age.
“I think it’s wonderful kids that age would think to do something like that,” Kevin Hoagland said. “Obviously, I think they get it from their parents.”
The Hoagland Five say that their true inspiration is their Uncle Kevin, who they have never seen out of his wheelchair.
“We’ve seen pictures of Kevin before his accident,” Sam Hoagland said. “But we’ve never seen him out of the wheelchair. He’s a huge inspiration to all of us.”
Kayleigh added that her uncle has dealt with what life dealt him “with a smile on his face every day.”
The Hoagland Five’s run earned $4,000 for the association last year. The association added another $16,000, and donated the $20,000 to Eric LeGrand, who was paralyzed as a Rutgers University football player in 2010. Since its beginning 25 years ago, the Central Jersey Spinal Cord Association has donated $1.5 million to research and $700,000 to those with spine injuries so that they can afford treatment or equipment.
For the sake of the run, the Hoagland family spends about $700 on t-shirts and about $600 for food for a picnic after the event, which has no winner or time clocks.
“I think it’s (the run’s) a great idea,” Liam Hoagland said. “It helps a lot of people in need. A lot of people don’t know of spinal cord injuries.”
“Raising kids, there’s a certain moral lesson we want them to learn,” Jacque Hoagland said of the run. “And it’s fun. We see a lot of friends. It’s a fun day.”
“This is just one great example of how kids could make a difference and have fun doing it,” Kevin Hoagland said.