Cameras flashed and tissues were passed when the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office presented 4-year-old Noah Williams with a special chair that would give the boy, who would never be able to walk, the ability to run.
“We’re not just law enforcement. We’re part of the community,” Sheriff Richard Roundtree said during the ceremony at the sheriff’s office Friday. “We’re here to make the community better in every way we can.”
Noah was born three months premature with cerebral palsy. Doctors told his mother, Naomi, that her only child would never talk, walk or crawl.
“I made a promise when he was one,” said Williams, who is a member of the local running group Black Girls Run. “I told him as long as I could run I would run for him.”
Williams said safety was becoming an increasing concern for her “differently-abled” child, who has little head or body control.
She applied for a grant to purchase a safer chair for her son, but it was denied because it wasn’t deemed a “special needs” chair.
The sheriff’s office’s running team had met Noah several times on various runs and learned the difficulties the mother faced. When Roundtree heard the story, he called the decision a “no brainer.”
“I cried,” Williams said of the phone call that gave her the good news. “I was still on the phone and I just started crying.”
The $1,200 Large Special Needs Trailer by WIKE Bicycle Trailers was purchased with funds from the sheriff’s office benevolent fund. Outspokin’ Bicycles assisted in ensuring the chair was assembled correctly and safe for mother and child.
Members of the sheriff’s office running team and Black Girls Run gathered in the department’s conference room with the Williams family when Roundtree wheeled in the bright yellow and blue stroller that came equipped with a canopy, orange flag and a bike hitch.
“This means the world to us,” Williams said at the presentation.
She described running as “therapy” for her and Noah. When he gets agitated, running calms him and helps put him to sleep.
The mother and members of the sheriff’s office fumbled over instructions with the new chair for several minutes before getting Noah settled in, but Williams knew instantly it was a better fit.
“That feels so much better, doesn’t it?” she said quietly to her son.
After the presentation, the runners took a one-mile police-escorted run through downtown with Noah and Williams, who was wearing a white tank top with her son’s picture and a photo of the handicap symbol “= differently-abled”.
After the run, Williams said the chair was even better than she expected and better than the one she had originally hoped to buy with the grant.
Noah would have outgrown the chair she hoped to buy in little more than a year, but the new one is large enough and supported enough weight to take Noah into his teenage years.
“I feel like wondrous opportunities have just opened for us,” she said.
The old chair added an extra 80 pounds of weight to their run and was difficult to manage in hilly areas, but the new one was much lighter, easy to navigate, and more comfortable for Noah.
Williams said other runners like to help by pushing Noah during a run, but they are often scared to. The new chair, she said, will make others feel more comfortable.
She’s also excited to pull Noah on a bike for the first time.