When Kelley Norris crosses the finish line at the Georgia Regents University Augusta Half Marathon and 10K on Sunday, she will be pushing a stroller carrying the reason she runs.
Norris is leading a group of nearly 30 runners named Friends of Frances, a group running in support of 6-year-old Frances Brown, a child who has a rare disease known as Macrocephaly-capillary malformation (M-CM). The disease is a multiple malformation syndrome causing abnormal body and head overgrowth, and abnormalities of the skin, vascular system, brain and limbs, according to Norris.
Norris, who is a pediatric pharmacist at Children’s Hospital of Georgia, said when Frances was born, there were about 90 people in the world diagnosed with M-CM. There are a little more than 130 in the world diagnosed now. Frances has had 16 surgeries, including 10 nuerosurgeries.
“She has overcome more than I could even put into words,” Norris said. “She has such an infectious smile and giggle. People think she’s the cutest thing ever.”
Frances attends Lake Forest Hills Elementary School and is in the deaf and hard of hearing class. Norris said she has made tremendous progress in the past year by learning to sign and count to 15.
Friends of Frances is running to support the girl’s medical costs not covered by insurance. A portion of proceeds will also go toward the children’s hospital in her honor.
Norris said the group ran for the first time last year with 20, while printing 50 shirts. This year, they expect close to 30 runners while printing 150 shirts. Norris plans to push Frances across the finish line in a stroller, celebrating both of their accomplishments.
“Last year, when Friends of Frances was created, our family was incredibly touched and honored that Kelley would train and run her first half for Frances,” said Frances’ mother, Ashley Brown. “Then, we were even more shocked and honored that others wanted to join her and run for rare-disease awareness.
“This year, our Friends of Frances group has grown tremendously. Our family greatly appreciates the love and support that Friends of Frances and the community have given to Frances and to us. It gives us the hope and the strength to continue our mission of awareness to all those we meet.”
Augusta Sports Council CEO Brinsley Thigpen said there are many groups running in the event. Thigpen said there were 27 teams registered as of Monday.
“People like to train together,” she said. “Running is an individual sport, but to get there, a lot of times people train with friends. They encourage one another. It makes it more fun and encourages people to try something.”
The event begins at 8 a.m. at Enterprise Mill. It also ends there.