Sep. 15—Logan Edens, a 13-year-old eighth-grader at Troy Junior High School, overcame long odds just to reach the starting line of a cross country race Tuesday at Piqua Country Club.
Crossing the finish line — with the help of David Fong, director of communications for Troy City Schools — was a whole other story, one that touched the hearts of everyone who waited for Edens to complete the one-mile race and everyone who saw photos and video of the moment on Facebook later that night. The emotional moment touched Fong as much as anyone because Logan, like his 14-year-old son Max, is autistic.
"It was an incredible experience," Fong said.
Before that story gets told, here's what people should know about Logan.
"Let me tell you about my son," his mom Liz said in a phone interview Wednesday morning. "He was named after Wolverine, the superhero. He's an unstoppable kid. Literally."
Logan's inspirational story started at birth. Liz underwent an emergency C-section because his heart had stopped. The doctor told her he had no oxygen for nine minutes and would probably spend his life in a wheelchair without the ability to walk or talk to do any kind of physical activity. She learned he had an extra chamber in his heart that could kill him if he overexerted himself.
Logan weighed 3 pounds, 1.6 ounces at birth. Doctors feared he wouldn't survive a week. They wanted to insert a feeding tube. Liz resisted that option and promised she would feed him around the clock.
"He ended up coming home at 4 pounds, 6 ounces," Liz said, "and it was right before Thanksgiving. I remember this because we had Thanksgiving that year with him at home."
Liz kept pushing for Logan when doctors told her he would need a wheelchair for the rest of his life.
"I was like, 'Yeah, that's not going to happen,'" she said, "so I put him in physical therapy and everything else, and with the help of the therapist showing me how to stretch him, he started walking a little he was 1 and a half. The doctors were kind of surprised. I was like, 'Look, I'm going to try to get my kid to any point in life where he's physically capable of doing things. I'm just that kind of mom. Sorry.'"
Logan's heart healed on its own by the age of 5. He didn't need a heart transplant, which Liz had feared. For all his 13 years, he's been doing everything the experts figured he would never be able to do: playing football video games, swimming, riding bikes, taking Kung fu classes, climbing on couches — and running.
A special kid
Running with a team didn't enter the picture until the family moved to Troy in August. Edens took inspiration from his cousin, Michael Blevins, who ran track and cross country at Tippecanoe High School, so when Liz saw the opportunity to sign up Logan for cross country at Troy as they were enrolling him in school, she sent a message to the Troy coach, Kurt Snyder.
"She let me know he had never participated on a team before," Snyder said, "and he may have struggles but he's willing to try it. He loves to run, and we're doing everything we can to accommodate him on our team."
Snyder talked to his runners about what to expect with Edens. He asked several of them to help Edens walk from the school to the stadium every day for practice. He was proud of the response. He also praised the efforts of assistant coaches, Courtney Wright and Barb Roberts, who have run with Edens at practice.
"Honestly, it takes a special kid to even want to join cross country," Snyder said. "It's not an easy sport, to run for enjoyment. These kids kind of get it, how significant just wanting to be a part of that sport is, so they're willing to help in any way they can."
Edens made his debut at a home meet last week. Several of his teammates went out on the course to help him finish the race. Snyder knew the school needed to complete paperwork with the Ohio High School Athletic Association to allow an administrator to help Logan finish races at future meets, especially away from Troy, because Edens would be disqualified if a teammate went out on the course to help him.
It was important to Snyder that Edens' name show up in official results, so they wanted to follow the rules Tuesday, which is the first race they had after completing the paperwork. Emily Fogus, an intervention specialist at Troy, had planned to run with Edens, but she was sick this week.
Snyder sent out an email looking for volunteers. Fong, whose daughter Sophie is a Troy senior pole vaulter coached by Snyder, was the first to respond. While not in great running shape, Fong had recently lost some weight and wanted to help.
"I love Kurt Snyder," Fong said. "He's just one of the best people in our district and much more than that — one of the best people I know. And I saw a chance to maybe help someone who has been through some of the same things as my son. It was kind of a no-brainer for me."
Video of the race shows Fong and Edens running next to each other and Fong offering words of encouragement.
"C'mon, bud, we've got this," Fong said.
At the starting line, Fong was told if Edens decided he didn't want to run anymore to remind him there was a Kit Kat for him at the finish line. Edens loves Kit Kats.
"The first question I asked was, 'Do you have two? Because I will also run for Kit Kats,'" Fong joked.
There was indeed the candy bar at the end for Edens. Fong let him have it.
"He earned it," Fong said. "I wasn't going to stand between a man and his Kit Kat."
There was also a large crowd waiting for Edens.
"The track and field community and the cross country community, it's not necessarily like football or something like that where it's adversarial," Fong said. "The other teams were cheering for him. His own team was cheering for him. Every parent was cheering for him. I'm not gonna lie, it was a pretty emotional experience for me coming across the finish line and seeing that many people who waited around to watch and cheer for Logan. I think I probably looked at it a little differently because of my own son."
Edens didn't care he came in last in the race, his mom said. He just wanted to run and plans to continue to do so.
"Every single day since he started," Liz said, "I've asked him, 'Are you sure you want to keep running?' He says, 'Yes, I want to run.' I'm like, 'Okay, let's keep going.'"