JT Shorter loves to run.
And he’s very good at it. That was evident with his first place finish at GGC’s 12th annual Race the Helix-Greenwood, held during GGC’s Gene Week festivities in October.
But this wasn’t the first time that JT had been to GGC. His first visit was at age nine when he was referred for a genetics evaluation following his diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder.
“We suspected that James Thomas (or JT as he likes to be called at school), might be on the spectrum around age 3 or 4,” said his father, KJ Shorter. “He was always very verbal and does well academically, so it can be difficult for some to understand that he has this diagnosis, but he has social struggles, anxiety, and sometimes might appear rude when he doesn’t mean to be.”
His parents shared that JT has learned to deal with some of these struggles through ABA, or Applied Behavioral Analysis therapy at Project HOPE Foundation in Greenwood, and he is thriving at Thornwell Charter School in Clinton where he runs on the cross country team.
“His school has a wonderful faculty and staff who understand that all children are different, and they meet them where they are,” said KJ.
JT was only able to run one meet during his first year of cross country because of COVID, but he ran in 8th grade and again this year as a high school freshman.
“Running has been wonderful for him,” said his mother, Kristen. “It has further developed his social skills, and he’s becoming a leader on the team by encouraging his teammates. It also helps to manage his excess energy.”
The Shorter family are regulars at Race the Helix events. They served as the host family for the 2018 Greenwood race, presenting the awards and sharing their family’s GGC experience with JT, his 8-year-old brother, Knox, and six-year-old brother, Elias, all of whom are GGC patients.
“We are very thankful for the Greenwood Genetic Center and want to let people know about the wonderful resource we are blessed to have in our state,” added KJ.
The Shorters are also close friends with the Shenal family who started Race the Helix in 2010. Ryleigh Shenal was one of Knox’s first friends when he started therapy at 6 months, and ‘he was always so excited to see Ryleigh every time he went to therapy,” said Kristen.
“The passion that the Shenals share about the Greenwood Genetic Center with all who will listen is inspiring, and we genuinely wanted to be part of the race,” added Kristen.
Race the Helix – Greenwood is in its 12th year of raising awareness and funds to support GGC. All proceeds from this year’s event benefit the GGC Foundation’s ‘GGC Cares Fund’ which helps offset the cost of genetic testing for patients who are uninsured or under insured.
“The 2022 event was our largest Race the Helix ever,” shared Cady Nell Keener, CFRE, Executive Director of the GGC Foundation. The Greenwood race attracted over 320 participants, both in person and virtually, and raised over $50,000 in sponsorships.
One of the presenting sponsors, Bionano, a provider of genome analysis solutions based in San Diego not only sponsored the race, but they also held their own Race the Helix event in California for employees to participate together. Bionano President and CEO, Erik Holmlin, PhD, and Chief Medical Officer, Alka Chaubey, PhD, even flew to Greenwood to participate in person with Holmlin winning his age group.
“We are so grateful to all of the participants, volunteers, and generous sponsors who made this event such a success,” added Keener.