Runners organize race to get wheels for Wandell

Published 9:23 am Friday, March 25, 2016

Contributed Photo  Josh Wandell, his family and friends were excited on race day for Josh to complete his first marathon.

Contributed Photo
Josh Wandell, his family and friends were excited on race day for Josh to complete his first marathon.

Retired East Side Principal Dr. Josh Wandell had run numerous half marathons, and had dreamed of completing a full marathon. When he was diagnosed with amoytrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) in 2013, this dream was pushed to the sidelines. Though he continued to work and to be physically active, his mobility has become increasingly limited.

With the help of some runners friends and with the support of his family, Wandell completed his first marathon on March 13. The Tobacco Road Marathon in Carey, N.C., is a qualifying race for the Boston Marathon, and typically does not have adaptive racers participating.

Friends of Josh, including East Side Librarian TJ Brown and East Side parent Michelle McClellan, began looking for a way to get Wandell into that marathon. Wandell’s brother Neal located the organization Ainsley’s Angels, which helps people to raise money to purchase racing chairs.

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Wandell’s uncle Kelly Geagley said that organization established a fund for him to get a chair, but they also loaned him one to use in the marathon. Brown, McClellan, Elizabethon teacher Alex Campbell, West Side Principal John Wright and others pushed him 26.2 miles, and he completed the race in just over five hours.
“Josh absolutely loved it,” said Geagley. “He cried a bunch, but happy tears. Every time we needed to stop for something he wanted to keep going.”

The chairs cost approximately $5,000, but Josh’s personal chair will cost about $7,000. Geagley said they still needs about $2,000 to be able to purchase a custom chair.

To raise the remaining funds, McClellan and runner Netta Vogt have organized a race on April 28.
“We heard how happy he was when he finished the marathon, so we wanted to be able to give him the opportunity to continue racing,” said Vogt.

The 5k race is open to 100 runners, who may participate for $20. It will begin at 6 p.m. at Elizabethton High School and will take place on the Tweetsie Trail towards downtown to a turnaround point and then returning to EHS.

Packet pickup will be from 4:30-5:30 p.m. No shirts or medals will be provided, as 100 percent of proceeds will go to Wandell.

Registration is available online by searching Wheels for Wandell at and at
RunCorps will be professionally timing the race at no cost.

Those that want to donate to a general fund to assist with medical and other costs may do so at by searching Team Wandell.

Wandell has cited Acts 20:24 which says, “Consider it nothing if you don’t finish this race glorifying God.” Though he has said his finish line may have been moved up, his faith and the faith of his family remain strong.