A cheer went up from the crowd as Jean Law crossed the finish line at Saturday’s Run for Aimee fundraiser.
Not because she finished first, but because she finished the race with two prosthetic legs.
Her children, Cameron, 11, and Dylan, 9, and her husband, Jon, walked alongside her, pushing her wheelchair in case she needed to rest.
For her, participating was an accomplishment, but it was more a way to reach out to someone in her similar circumstance – losing her limbs to an infection.
Aimee Copeland, a graduate student from Snellville, Ga., is being treated in Augusta after she contracted necrotizing fasciitis after a zip-lining accident in May. The infection damaged her legs and hands, causing surgeons to remove most of her left leg, her remaining foot and both of her hands.
A group of local women organized the 5K to help the family pay for prosthetics for Copeland. Registration alone raised $10,000.
A silent auction was also held, and though registration closed last Sunday night with 500 participants, people continued to offer donations, said Dory Gonzalez, one of the event’s organizers.
A prosthetic leg costs tens of thousands of dollars, and insurance won’t cover all of it, she said.
Law and her family drove from Jacksonville, Fla., to participate.
“I just kind of wanted to show Aimee that it’s possible. It takes a lot of hard work, but she’s going to do it,” Law said.
“It’s a new normal. It’s not what it was before. Life is different, but life is good.”
The ordeal is fairly recent for Law. What she thought was the flu in February 2010 turned out to be a strep infection.
She lost her legs, her fingers and part of her nose.
When Jon Law saw Cope-land’s story on the news, he was struck by how similar her story was to his wife’s, he said. First, he suggested the family pray for her.
“And then he’s like, ‘You really ought to meet her,’ ” Jean Law said.
She began following the blog of Aimee’s father, Andy Copeland. When she found out about the 5K, she decided to use the opportunity to offer support and encouragement.
As she walked, she met Andy Copeland, who invited her to meet his daughter later that afternoon.
“I think she’ll be a tremendous inspiration for Aimee,” Copeland said. “We’ve actually been wanting to connect Aimee with people like that because the next stage in her recovery is rehab. These are the people she needs to be able to talk to and find out what to expect, so these are stories of inspiration that she definitely needs to know.”
In a quiet moment after receiving his award for first place in the men’s run, 15-year-old Justin Weegar handed the envelope containing his $100 prize to Copeland. Then, he tearfully hugged his neck.
He said he wanted to give Aimee Copeland his winnings “because this is for her, not me.”
When Andy Copeland addressed the crowd, he said the family will give back some of the love they’ve been shown through a donation to Life Skills for Women, which equips low-income women with skills and tools needed to find work. The organization was in danger of closing.
Copeland said hopes to soon be able to take Aimee on a tour of Augusta and perhaps walk the stretch on which the 5K was held.
Next year, he’d like to hold a similar event to give her the opportunity to thank the community herself.