LUMBER BRIDGE — Near triple-digit temperatures, high winds and soaking rain from Hurricane Hermine couldn’t stop “Team Smile and Roll” from reaching its destination — the South of the Border — and completing its mission of showing what people with disabilities can accomplish.
The team of Mark Campbell and Brandon Rizzuti, members of the Holly Springs Run Club, ran and rolled through Robeson County on Saturday on the journey that began Wednesday morning in Virgilina, Va., and ended just across the South Carolina border on Sunday.
Rizzuti, who suffers with cerebral palsy, was the rolling member of the team, pushed along in a wheelchair by Campbell or one of several other runners who joined the two for part of the five-day venture. One of several runners joining Campbell and Rizzuti on Saturday as they passed through Robeson County was Randall Graham, a member of the Holly Springs Run Club and a former resident of Lumberton. His father is Randall Graham Sr., and works with the Robeson County Sheriff’s Office.
The purpose of the run, according to Campbell, was to to raise awareness that those with physical disabilities can participate in endurance events. Campbell said that his run with Rizzuti across North Carolina raised money for Ainsley’s Angels, a national nonprofit that sponsors road races as therapy for those with special needs and their families.
Campbell said Saturday during a rest stop in Lumber Bridge that the event had raised $15,000 that will be used by Ainsley’s Angels to purchase wheelchairs specially equipped for those with disabilities in long-distance road races.
Campbell said that the 28-year-old Rizzuti is one of the most active members of the Holly Springs Run Club.
“He can do anything that others can do except talk and walk,” Campbell said. “He laughs, he jokes, he gets on the computer and is always putting messages on Facebook.
“‘Yeah, he is always getting on Facebook and telling us he’s ready to go running so come pick him up,” Graham said.
According to Campbell, Rizzuti’s mother said that the run club has meant a lot to him and his family.
“She said that it has opened doors up for him,” Campbell said.
Despite weather conditions that challenged even the best trained endurance runners, Campbell said that Rizzuti had stayed active in every part of the run from Virginia to South of the Border.
“He’s been there every step of the way,” Campbell said. “He’s struggled with us through all the heat and rain. He’s had to fight cramps and dehydration just like the rest of us.”
As of Saturday afternoon, the run was a few hours behind. Runners had stopped on Friday when weather conditions associated with Hurricane Hermine made it impossible to continue.
Campbell said Saturday that only he and Rizzuti will have run and rolled the entire route from Virginia to South of the Border when the journey ends.
“But by the time we end, probably 50 or 60 runners will have participated,” he said. “We have never been alone.”