Washington Heights mom to run NYC Marathon for Team for Kids

Kids often look to their parents as heroes. Sometimes, though, parents glean inspiration from their children.

Such is the case in the Fernandez-Cruz family of Washington Heights. Mother of two, Lisa, will be running in her second TCS New York City Marathon on Sunday to help raise funds for Team for Kids, a New York Road Runners program that, among other initiatives, helps expose young people to running. Lisa’s son, Wilfrin, 11, who has autism, took up the sport three years ago under the program’s guidance.

“I am one hundred percent inspired by my son,” she said. “I had been running for years, but before last year not more than four or five miles and never in races. But watching him run and seeing the joy he got from it made me think, ‘Why not go for it?’ ”

Like many kids with autism, Wil, as he is known, struggled with school and making friends. Now a student at one of the city’s Autism Spectrum Disorder Nest Schools, he has made remarkable progress on both fronts, thanks in large part to running. At his old school, PS 187, he ran on a track team funded in part by the NYRR and was able to connect with teammates who shared his passion for running.

Lisa, who with husband Wil also has son, George, 9, said the sport has had an impact in other areas as well. “We’ve found that a Monday morning run, just a mile or so, really helps [Wil]   manage the stress from school and gets him focused,” she said. 

After starting with the NYRR’s free races for kids in Van Cortlandt Park, Wil is now a youth ambassador with the organization. He is running in adult races with Lisa, although he’s not yet at marathon distance. The two plan to run a 10-kilometer together in the coming months. He will compete in the TCS New York City Marathon’s Youth Invitational on Sunday morning.

“The sport has done so much for him,” Lisa said. “Now, I can’t imagine not running in the marathon. Team for Kids has been so important for us.”

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