Pay It Forward: Supporting “Paige’s Peeps”

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Walking down the hallways of Geneseo Middle School, Amanda Tesmond is thinking about her friend running.

"One day, I was standing outside my house and I saw Jenn Johnson just running and I just thought - man, I just wish if people had a little bit of that inspiration, it would be amazing what everybody could do," Amanda said.

It's what inspired her to help not one, but two women in her community by surprising them in the classroom they share and Paying It Forward, with the help of WQAD News 8 and Ascentra Credit Union.

"When I saw the slogan for 'Paige's Peeps,' - We run until she can - I was very inspired," explained Amanda. "So many of us take our bodies for granted and when I heard that Jenn - who has a heart problem herself - was trying to run a half-marathon, I was so inspired by that."

'Paige's Peeps' is a team of people who are raising money for awareness and research on Rett Syndrome, a rare genetic condition that affects brain development in girls.

One of those girls is Paige Hamer, an 8th Grader at Geneseo Middle School, who is unable to walk or talk, but can communicate with her eyes.

"She uses an eye gaze board which allows her to answer questions about her personal needs or preferences," explained Jenn. "It also allows her to participate in the lessons being done that day, so she participates fully throughout the day with her peers."

For seven years, Jenn has been Paige's Paraprofessional... and much more.

"Even in the summer when she is not a one-on-one aide, she goes to her house, she brings her to places," said Amanda. "She just goes above and beyond what most people would do."

"By the grace of God I got that job, because I think that job was specifically for me and Paige to be together," said Jenn.

So when Jenn heard about the Disney Half Marathon and its mission to help others with Rett Syndrome, Jenn knew she had to get going.

"I made that commitment and began recruiting people to help me and encourage me along the way and it grew and grew and grew," explained Jenn. "Now we have 13 women, 9 of whom will actually go to Florida and 4 more that will still run the half-marathon here in Geneseo."

With the help of trivia nights and other fundraisers, 'Paige's Peeps' is ready for the race and with an extra $300 from the Pay It Forward Program, Jenn is ready to run #untilshecan.

"I really appreciate Amanda taking the initiative to bring more attention to 'Paige's Peeps,'" said Jenn. "It's not about me. It's about Paige and about the community."

The Disney Half Marathon takes place February 23-26, 2017. It raises money for Girl Power 2 Cure, a non-profit dedicated to girls helping girls fight Rett Syndrome.

If you know someone doing great things in the community, consider nominating them for the Pay It Forward Program by clicking here.