When Hannah was a newborn living in a Kazakhstan orphanage, doctors told Erin Herman that there was a good chance Hannah would never walk. Undeterred, Herman adopted Hannah at 11 months old and vowed to face her challenge — a club foot — head-on.
On Feb. 21, the pair celebrated their tenth “Hannahversary,” the day they became mother and daughter, by running the Disney Princess 5K at Walt Disney World. It was a momentous occasion for both of them.
Ten years before, after returning to Cincinnati, Ohio, with Herman, Hannah began treatment for her club foot, including physical therapy. Just before Hannah turned 2, she began walking.
“She used a walker for a long time and, all of a sudden, it came together,” Herman told WKRC Cincinnati. “She had coordination and strength and endurance.”
Over the course of the next eight years, Hannah continued to defy the odds, running and swimming competitively — even breaking a few swimming records.
But celebrating this year’s Hannahversary by participating in the runDisney Disney Princess race weekend was extra meaningful for the pair.
“It’s a very special place for us to celebrate,” Herman told the Disney Parks Blog. “I always say she was my fairy tale, she was my dream come true, and here we are in the happiest place on earth.”
But their weekend at Walt Disney World was more than just a celebration of the life they’d built together. Because of the obstacles Hannah has overcome, her participation in the 5K was a celebration for all those who have been told something was out of reach — and went for it anyway.
“Hannah is an inspiration to other children because anything she was told she couldn’t do she’s now able to do,” Herman told FOX19. “We didn’t think she’d be able to swim, now she’s setting records in the pool. We didn’t think she’d be able to walk and now she’s running a 5K.”
The significance of the occasion wasn’t lost on 10-year-old Hannah either. She’s committed to giving hope to other kids facing adversity.
“I want to be an inspiration to them,” she said, “so I can show them how to power through everything and persevere.”
Hannah has set even loftier goals for her future, hoping to one day complete a triathlon.
“It’s the things we say yes to that change the course of our lives, and you can look at any child at any point in time and say her story does not have to end this way,” Herman told WKRC Cincinnati. “Any child, all they need is a family and love, and, if they have that, everything else can be overcome.”
Watch highlights from Hannah and Erin’s race:
Another Runner Gets A Second Chance
The Disney Princess Half Marathon weekend, one of four that takes place annually at Walt Disney World, was packed with inspiring moments.
Marko Cheseto, the fourth runner to cross the finish line of Sunday’s Disney Princess Half Marathon, lost both of his feet 11 years ago. As a student and competitive runner at the University of Alaska-Anchorage, the Kenyan-born Cheseto got lost in the woods for three days and ended up with severe frostbite that required both of his feet to be amputated 6 inches below the knee.
Cheseto vowed to walk — then run — again.
“I know I still have the power, the inner power, and it doesn’t come from below my knees,” Cheseto told ESPN. “That’s not where my power is. It’s inside. It’s inside my heart.”
Cheseto, 37, holds the double-amputee marathon world record of 2:42:24 and, after finishing fourth in the Disney Princess Half Marathon with a time of 1:17:45, has his sights set on the Boston Marathon in April.
Two runDisney race weekends are yet to come at Walt Disney World in 2020: the Star Wars Rival Run Weekend, April 16-19, and the 2020 Wine & Dine Half Marathon Weekend, Nov. 5-8. Both weekends offer a 5K, 10K and a half marathon, as well as a kids dash and a kids 1-mile run. Some Star Wars races are still open for registration and the Wine & Dine races open for registration on March 10.
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