Michigan teacher dedicates her running to Down syndrome boy in Texas

HOMER, Mich. -- Debbie Winchell of Homer doesn't just run for fitness. She runs for Eli.

Eli is three-and-a-half years old and lives in Texas. And he has Down syndrome.

Running for Eli "has changed my life," Winchell says.

How does a first grade teacher in Homer, Mich., know a little kid from Texas? The Facebook group I Run For Michael matches runners with people of all ages with disabilities. They can't run, so runners like Winchell run for them.

"If you have the time and are committed, I would definitely recommend it," says Winchell. "He's the happiest little guy I`ve ever known."

The pair keep in touch via computer with the help of Eli's mom, Amanda Ravetta. Eli grins broadly as Winchell blows kisses.

Winchell is now so dedicated to Eli, she sends her medals to him. And he wears them.

But Winchell sees a much bigger picture than just Eli. "It's for the whole Down syndrome community. I feel like I've been able to bring awareness to something people just don't know about."

Winchell is training for the New York City Marathon this November. And she again will be running for Eli.

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