Run on the Ridges

Participants line up for the start of the Run on the Ridges 5K on Saturday morning, Oct. 8, at Southside Park off Richland Avenue in Athens. The event raised $710 for the Joy Boyd Memorial Scholarship for physical therapy students.

Photographer: Heather Haynes

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Physical therapy students run and more for charity

On the face of it, it seemed like just another 5K race, an excuse to take advantage of an unseasonably warm October morning in Athens.

Ohio University student Neil Hoy called Saturday’s annual Run on the Ridges a check-off of his bucket list before he graduates in November, while Athens high school cross-country coach Andrew Chiki was there to support a friend.

J.D. Sheppard pulled away from the field down the stretch to claim first place, and the event drew participants of all ages.

A closer look at Run on the Ridges, though, shows it to be part of a bigger picture, a shared view among faculty and students in Ohio University’s Physical Therapy Program of giving back to the community and looking out for their own.

“One of the core values of the profession of physical therapy is social responsibility,” said Gary Chleboun, professor of physical therapy and interim director of the School of Rehabilitation and Communication Sciences, part of the College of Health Sciences and Professions. “So you want to volunteer and be involved with what people are doing in the community.

“Something where you can say, ‘I’ve been privileged, what can I do to help those who haven’t had that opportunity?’ It’s part of our nature.”

The Run on the Ridges showcased that impulse to give back. It raised $710 for the Joy Boyd Memorial Scholarship, named in honor of a 1988 physical therapy graduate who passed away shortly after completing school.

Chleboun was one of Boyd’s professors during her time at OHIO.

“She was always that person who just seemed to have it together,” he said. “Nothing fazed her. She was an excellent clinician, an excellent student. The rest of the students kind of looked up to her as model of a person who really had a good heart and a good character.”

Jaime Diadiun, one of the student organizers of the Run on the Ridges, didn’t know Boyd but understands the outsized impact she had. As a physical therapy student, Diadiun said, service is presented as a pillar of the college experience from day one. She cites the small size of the classes in the program – 44 students this year – as fostering a tight bond and a motivation to work together.

“Everyone in the class is close, and you kind of model off of each other,” Diadiun said. “It’s easier to get involved when four of your friends are interested in it. We all help each other out a lot. We very rarely have to ask people to help out; it’s just kind of expected.”

Petra Williams, assistant professor of physical therapy, has seen firsthand the power of this closeness. Four years ago, a quadriplegic rugby player visited one of her classes and befriended a few students. The students and Williams attended one of his tournaments and got the idea to host a pay-for-play tournament of their own.

The Four-Play! Quad Rugby Tournament quickly grew, and last year raised more than $5,000, enough to donate a specially equipped wheelchair to the Buckeye Blitz, a Columbus-based quad rugby team. Williams said the event is part of a unique shared perspective that brings physical therapy students together.

“They have a desire to give back and to lead,” Williams said. “They feel inspired to carry on the tradition to the classes coming up behind them. The alumni come back every year, and it’s an unofficial homecoming. There is this sense of, ‘Hey, we’re doing something really cool, and it’s really valuable, and it brings us all together, so let’s keep it going.’ ”

Service events allow students to step outside of their classroom bubble, Williams said, preparing them for the next step after school.

“School can at times be a long haul, and things like this remind students what they’re doing it for,” Williams said. “That really keeps them grounded.”

But, can organizing events like Run for the Ridges and the quad rugby tournament make physical therapy students more successful in their careers? Williams thinks so.

“By adding (events) like this in, then I know we’re sending out people who, 10 years from now, they will be the therapists that people will drive to see because they know they’re that good.”