Levi Gagner of Cavalier, North Dakota, is a smiley, cheerful 4-year-old who loves participating in half marathons with his dad, Kyle.
Levi developed a very rare form of muscular dystrophy before his 1st birthday for which there is no treatment or cure. With very limited mobility, Levi’s unable to support his head, sit up, stand or walk. But when he’s in his chair, the wind in his hair, on a run with his dad, he couldn’t be happier or more excited.
Kyle had been a runner for a few years and always encouraged his children to participate, so when Levi was diagnosed, they got a jogging base for his wheelchair and got in the race, starting with their first half marathon in 2015 in Grand Forks, North Dakota. They haven’t stopped running since, and have participated in eight half marathons around the country, including the Fargo (North Dakota) Marathon twice.
Kyle says Levi absolutely loves running with him. Like every runner, there are some days he doesn’t want to go, but that’s rare. So every couple of days, year-round, they can be found on the hills and trails around Cavalier, a town of 1,200 people near the Canada and Minnesota borders. Winter slows them down a bit, but fortunately the family has been able to take warm weather vacations in the past few years, and these vacations are often focused around races.
In the past three years, Levi and Kyle have participated in:
- Los Angeles Marathon, Los Angeles, March 2018
- Pete Beach Classic. St. Petersburg, Florida, January 2018
- Wild Hog Half Marathon, Grand Forks, September 2017
- Fargo Half Marathon, Fargo, May 2017
- Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon, Phoenix, January 2017
- Wild Hog Half Marathon, Grand Forks, September 2016
- Fargo Half Marathon, Fargo, May 2016
- Wild Hog Half Marathon, Grand Forks, September 2015 (Levi’s first race)
Last year, Levi’s running buddy and church pastor, Bill Crosby, sporting the uniform of Levi’s favorite team, the North Dakota State University Bison, set a world record at the Wild Hog Half Marathon in Grand Forks for the fastest half marathon in football pads. Inspired by Levi, Bill ran alongside Levi and Kyle and beat the record by over 3 minutes.
Levi has become a bit of a celebrity with his own website at levishope.com and his own Facebook page with the same name. But it’s not all about running. Levi’s Hope exists to help other families adjust and cope with the life-changing diagnosis of Congenital Muscular Dystrophy and improve the overall care and life for those dealing with the disease. Levi’s Hope also aims to inspire hope to all through participation in these running events.
Watch for Levi and Kyle in Fargo on May 19 as they participate in the Sanford Fargo Half Marathon.