Wheelchair doesn’t stop athlete from competing

Olalla’s Terry Hoefer wants to race, so he does, despite cerebral palsy

Staff writerJune 25, 2014 

Terry Hoefer and his trainer Ross Gilbert prepare for the Seattle Rock and Roll marathon. Hoefer, who has cerebral palsy, hopes to inspire other disabled athletes.


Terry Hoefer went 15 miles at the Rock and Roll Marathon in Seattle last weekend, a personal best.

And quite a feat, considering Hoefer, 21, of Olalla, is in a motorized wheelchair due to cerebral palsy. He didn’t finish the race, but his parents couldn’t be prouder.

There was a time, when he was a baby, that the Hoefers were told their adopted son wouldn’t live past the age of 2. Now, he is one of a handful of disabled competitors in motorized wheelchairs.

It all started a few years back when Terry told his mother Vicki that he wanted to run with her.

“(Afterward) he took a four-hour nap,” Vicki said.

Now, Terry said, he can outrun her.

Terry didn’t ask to go on that first run because he wanted to train for a marathon.

“It just sounded cool,” he said.

That was the first of many outings; Terry competed in his first marathon two years ago.

It’s not a common thing, Vicki admits. It requires changing the batteries in Terry’s chair often. The company that makes the batteries disapproved of his competing due to the energy drain, saying that the wheelchairs were not made for marathons.

But, the Hoefers question, why not?

“It’s like people don’t want to think outside the box,” Vicki said.

It was hard finding a trainer that willing to take a disabled client. Three trainers said no before the YMCA’s Ross Gilbert said yes.

Vicki said that Terry wouldn’t be able to compete without Gilbert’s motivation. Working with the YMCA has been “incredible,” Vicki said, and Terry is stronger than ever.

“He believed in Terry. He’d never dealt with a disabled client ... but he was willing,” Vicki said.

But, according to Gilbert, he never said he knew what he was doing.

The two participated together on Saturday.

Working with Gilbert has made Terry stronger as well as more confident.

“If I complain, he makes me work harder,” the 21-year-old said.

The strength training helps Terry in more ways than marathons. Recently, doctors wanted to do a surgery in Terry’s left arm. It would be another in a number of surgeries he has had since he was a young child.

But his arm is strong now, and he there hasn’t been a need for the surgery yet.

The Hoefers wants to inspire other disabled people to think without limits. Getting out and showing people what he can do is important in changing minds.

There aren’t many places in Gig Harbor Vicki and Terry can run together, so they travel. They love the Orting Trail and consider the Chehalis Trail the prettiest.

“Being in a wheelchair trying to be a runner, there are so many obstacles,” Vicki said.

“It’s not something that’s recognizable ... people are just afraid to go that next step.”

Karen Miller: 253-358-4155 karen.miller@gateline.com Twitter: @Gateway_Karen

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