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Knoxville 5FIVE15 Fun Run to Benefit Amputee Athletes

DJ competes in a 5K wearing his prosthesis from Amputee Blade Runners.

DJ competes in a 5K wearing his prosthesis from Amputee Blade Runners.

Seventeen-year-old DJ Vanderwerf loves to run. The Sweetwater teen enjoys competing in 5K road races and continuously challenges himself to improve his speed and race times. “I’m active and always on the go. I believe you can do anything you want if you put your mind to it,” says Vanderwerf.

Running hasn’t always been a smooth road for Vanderwerf. Because of a birth defect, his left foot was amputated when he was just 9 months old. He’s been wearing a prosthesis ever since. Despite his prosthesis, Vanderwerf has excelled at many sports, earning top spots on the Sweetwater High School football, basketball and baseball teams.

“I don’t see myself as different because of my prosthesis. I’m just a normal kid who loves to play sports,” says Vanderwerf.

The only sport Vanderwerf has struggled to conquer is distance running. The prosthesis leg he has for daily wear and team sports isn’t suitable for comfortable distance running.

Two years ago Vanderwerf and his family learned about Amputee Blade Runners (ABR), a non-profit group that provides free running prosthetics for amputee athletes. ABR’s team of prosthetists, physicians and fabricators donate their time to construct and fit athletes with a custom running leg. Because running prosthesis are not considered “medically necessary”, they aren’t normally covered by insurance. Through ABR, Vanderwerf was fitted with a flexible carbon-fiber blade that has allowed him to run safely and comfortably ever since.

Now, Vanderwerf hopes to raise awareness about Amputee Blade Runners and assist them in helping other amputees. He’s serving as an Ambassador for ABR’s 5FIVE15 fundraiser. It will be held Wednesday, May 6, at 5:30pm, at Bearden Runner’s Market in Knoxville.

“Donate $5 and run or walk for five minutes or five miles. We hope to raise $15,000 to buy running sports legs for five amputees,” explains Vanderwerf.

The May 6th Knoxville event is part of the national 5FIVE15 Campaign. Amputee Blade Runners’ goal is to provide a running prosthesis to at least one athlete in all 50 states by 2016. Vanderwerf says it’s a goal worth striving for. “ABR helps adults and kids like me be active and normal. It’s a great organization and I hope people will come out and help us reach our goal!”

To donate or participate in the fun run please visit:

PremierSurgical_wStar_ProstheticCenter_Vert-ColorPremier Surgical Prosthetic Center is a proud sponsor of the Amputee Blade Runners Knoxville 5FIVE15 fundraiser.

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