By Dan Guttenplan
---- — SALISBURY — Colleen Roaf prepared to take her 10-year-old daughter, Shauna, for a run last night at the start of the Salisbury Ghost Trail.
The mother placed a yellow vest that resembled a crossing guard’s uniform over her daughter’s head. The label on the front of the jersey read, “Blind runner.” After a quick inspection, Roaf realized the jersey was on backward.
“Sometimes I mix it up and have her wear the guide jersey, and I wear the blind jersey,” Roaf said.
While Shauna will not be a guide in the 35th annual Pat Polletta 2-Mile Rail-Trail Race tonight in Salisbury, she will usher in a new era in the history of the race in which Adaptive Athletes participate. The race is named after Pat Polletta, a former running coach at Amesbury High who was paralyzed due to an injury before he died in 2005 at the age of 94. The race supports Adaptive Sports Partners of the North County, a nonprofit organization providing year-round opportunities for persons with physical and developmental disabilities, as well as the Amesbury High Boosters.
Shauna was born in 2003 nearly 17 weeks premature with a variety of physical and developmental disabilities. She lived in Brigham and Women’s Hospital for four and a half months and underwent multiple surgeries on her eyes and ears. She is legally blind, but that doesn’t stop her from participating in a variety of sports, such as skiing, ice skating, swimming and cycling.
“I get nervous just like any other parent,” Roaf said. “Every child can get hurt whether their vision is impaired or not. She just has to go and do it.”
The Polletta Race will be Roaf’s first, and she will run with a guide who works with her as a paraprofessional at Amesbury Elementary, Kim Sullivan. Shauna, who goes for all runs attached to a guide by a tether, said she has run 2 miles before — just never in a race.
“It’s just fun,” Shauna said.
Roaf hopes that tonight’s race will inspire her daughter to continue running in races. Warming up before a run last night, Shauna certainly looked the part of a runner with long lean limbs and a strong running gait.
“I just want to show that I’m a good runner,” Shauna said. “I’d like to do it again, that’s what my goal is.”