The eighth annual Color Blast 5K is set for March 21 and organizers are excited to announce that the siblings of those with disabilities will be honored at the event. There has never been an event in the region that brings together and celebrates the siblings of those with disabilities.
Blaire Linn-Neigbors, the director of the future Owen Autism Center at Puzzle Pieces, is one of those siblings. She has known from an early age that she was meant to work with individuals with disabilities. Her brother, Blake, now 29, has quadrapalegic cerebral palsy.
Blake’s disability means he cannot walk or talk and relies totally on others to care for him.
“Blake and I have always had a special connection,” Blaire said. “At a young age, I can remember being super interested in taking care of him. He can’t talk, but he can understand everything you’re saying. I always tried to find a way to communicate with him.”
Her brother has been Blaire’s number one influence in her career. When she was in middle school, Blaire job-shadowed Blake’s elementary teacher, confirming her desire to become a special education teacher. After graduating from college, she taught for over five years before joining Puzzle Pieces.
“Growing up, I was always an advocate,” she said, saying it was that advocacy that led her to her job today. “I always wanted to show others Blake’s abilities. He wants you to talk to him and treat him like anyone else. I could just see it in his eyes that he wanted to be treated equally.”
Puzzle Pieces Executive Director Amanda Owen approached Blaire about pushing Blake for Team Karlie, a local nonprofit that provides people with physical disabilities the use of a special jogging stroller so they can participate in the sport of running. That was several years ago and now Blaire and Blake have run over 10 races together.
“He enjoys it, and lets him be a part of a team and I think he likes feeling like he’s running,” Blaire said.
Both Blaire and Amanda know the special bond one can have with a sibling with a disability. Though their brothers have different diagnoses, growing up the sibling of someone with a disability gives them both a unique perspective and passion.
It’s that one-of-a-kind bond that will be celebrated at this year’s Color Blast 5K. Before the race, siblings will be asked to join Color Blast organizers on stage for special recognition.
The idea came after Amanda spoke at a Wisconsin conference for siblings and at state-level conferences in Kentucky. She realized Owensboro lacked that same community support for siblings like her and Blaire.
“I don’t know many other siblings -- Amanda was the first one that I bonded with that understood,” Blaire said. “We got it because we had the same goals for our brothers.”
It is their dream to not only see siblings celebrated at the 2020 Color Blast, but also to connect them in hopes of creating a community of support.
“I want to see more siblings come together and bring awareness to them,” Blaire said. “Siblings play such a huge role in the lives of their brother or sister with a disability, showing them that they are important and that they are appreciated.”
Amanda said the Color Blast recognition is just the start of what she wants to create for siblings in the region.
“I don’t want to have to wait until their adult life before being connected like Blair and I,” she said.
The Color Blast 5K is set for March 21 at 8 a.m. at Moreland Park. The early registration sign-up fee is $25 and $15 for students, but on March 13 registration will go up to $35. The top three largest teams will get a trophy. March 6 is the registration deadline for a guaranteed t-shirt. Registration can be found here.