On Friday, February 10, Emma Pietrafesa was given a magic wheelchair to kick off the Boynton Beach Barrier Free 5K celebration weekend. The 10-year-old was named the official starter of the race earlier this year.
The wheelchair was unveiled at a pre-race ceremony at Congress Avenue Barrier Free Park, which is designed with the needs of disabled children and adults in mind, like Emma. Emma has CdLS, and though she is nonverbal, she was able to express her excitement through waving her digits and letting out a giddy yelp.
It was Emma’s teacher who suggested that she be the race’s honorary starter after witnessing the resilience of the Pietrafesa family. Emma’s father Paul passed away in November after a brave battle with pancreatic cancer. Paul served 11 years as a firefighter in nearby Coral Springs.
The magic wheelchair was constructed by Boynton Beach Project Manager Kevin Ramsey and Police Officer Wilmer Rodriguez. The town officials spent over 20 hours building the custom design, which resembled her late father’s prized 2010 Camaro. The bright purple finish served a dual purpose of raising awareness of pancreatic cancer and CdLS.
Mom, Karen Pietrafesa, took the opportunity to spread awareness about CdLS. She immediately scoured places to display awareness materials on race day.
She told the Sun Sentinel, “It’s given us some smiles, and something positive to look forward to.”