COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) – When John Blaine realized 11-year-old Matt Woodrum was struggling through his 400-meter race at school in central Ohio, the physical education teacher felt compelled to walk over and check on the boy.
“Matt, you’re not going to stop, are you?” he encouragingly asked Woodrum, who has cerebral palsy.
“No way,” said the panting, yet determined, fifth-grader.
Almost spontaneously, dozens of Woodrum’s classmates _ many who had participated earlier in the school’s field day _ converged alongside him, running and cheering on Woodrum as he completed his final lap under the hot sun.
The race on May 16, captured on video by Woodrum’s mother, is now capturing the attention of strangers on the Internet, many who call the boy and his classmates an inspiration to be more compassionate toward each other. A nearly five-minute YouTube video posted this week by the boy’s uncle has received more than 680,000 views.
Woodrum, who has spastic cerebral palsy that greatly affects his muscle movement, said he had a few moments where he struggled.
“I knew I would finish it,” said the soft-spoken Woodrum, who attends Colonial Hills Elementary School in suburban Worthington. “But there were a couple of parts of the race where I really felt like giving up.”
It was his fourth race of the day, and one he didn’t have to run. Only a handful of students opted to give it a try, said Anne Curran, Woodrum’s mother. She said her son doesn’t exclude himself from anything, playing football and baseball with friends and his two brothers.
“He pushes through everything. He pushes through the pain, and he pushes through however long it may take to complete a task,” she said. “He wants to go big or go home.”
The sometimes shaky footage shows Woodrum beginning the race on a steady pace with his classmates, though he quickly lags. As several students pass him on their second lap around the grassy course, Blaine walks over to make sure Woodrum is OK.
“The kids will tell you that Matt never gives up on anything that he sets out to do,” said Blaine, who has been Woodrum’s teacher since kindergarten. “They knew he would cross that finish line, and they wanted to be a part of that.”
During his second lap and with Blaine by his side, Woodrum is suddenly joined by classmates encouraging him to keep going. Clapping and running by his side, the group begins to yell in unison, “Let’s go, Matt! Let’s go!”
Woodrum said he was surprised by his classmates’ kindness.
“It was really cool and encouraging,” he said.
As Woodrum reaches the finish line, the video shows the dozens of students bursting into applause, some throwing their arms and fists into the air before giving him a round of high-fives. Some congratulate him, and at least one kid is heard in the video proudly telling another that Woodrum is his friend.
“They treat him like every other kid,” Curran said. “They’re very great with him and they’re like a second family to him.”
Curran said her son doesn’t dwell on his condition.
“He’s been a fighter since day one, and I didn’t expect anything less.”
Blaine said no one knew a video camera was recording the race that day.
“It was so fitting that we were all together,” he said. “Matt was a huge part of that race, his classmates were a huge part of that race. It was a magic moment.”
Barbara Rodriguez can be reached at
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