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  • 20 Nov 2014

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Guts and glory: Oak Hills boy has both

by: COURTESY OF SARA PUGLISI - Trenton Chappelle, 11, receives his T-shirt from Oak Hills Elementary Principal Cheryl Hagseth at an assembly honoring him for completing a cumulative 26.2-mile run-walk challenge involving students at the Beaverton school.There was really no reason to think Trenton Chappelle wasn’t going to complete his marathon and collect his T-shirt as part of Oak Hills Elementary’s On The Move program.

Not if you know Trenton as his mother does.

“He has always been so determined with everything he does,” Sara Puglisi says. “He always sets new goals and then reaches them, so we’re constantly making him new goals.

“This was all on his own. He wanted to do On the Move, and nobody was going to stop him.”

Chappelle, 11, is a happy kid with a bright smile who has spent his young life adjusting to the realities of cerebral palsy. Walking is a struggle, and conversation can be a challenge.

“We all pitch in and try to figure out what he’s saying sometimes,” says Puglisi, who lives with husband Rory Chappelle and her four children in Aloha.

But Trenton is always ready to take on a challenge. On the Move was every bit of that.

To encourage fitness, Oak Hill’s parents offered each of the school’s 560 students the opportunity to run or walk a marathon — a collective 26.2 miles — during their recess periods. Parent volunteers stamped cards every time a student covered a lap. Those who completed the entire task would qualify for a free T-shirt.

“Trenton really wanted that T-shirt,” says Oak Hills principal Cheryl Hagseth. “It’s a big deal at our school.”

So Trenton began his journey in the fall, a lap or two at the time. Not as quickly as the other kids, but it’s a marathon, not a sprint. Through winter weather, he plugged away, with teacher’s aide Dottie Gavin monitoring his progress.

“Dottie said rain or shine, Trenton was always out there, walking the track,” his mother says.

At assemblies through the school year, students who covered the 26.2 miles were awarded their ceremonial T-shirts. As spring came, Trenton was still considerably short of his goal.

“Before our end-of-the-year assembly, Trenton hadn’t made it yet,” Hagseth says. “Wendy Turinsky, our committee chair, was going to give him a T-shirt, anyway. But he said no, he wanted to finish the race.

“The last few weeks of school, he was out there on the track every chance he could to get a few more miles.”

On the last day before the assembly, the determined fifth-grader covered the final lap of his 26.2 miles.

“Only one teacher knew about it,” Hagseth says. “I wanted it to be a surprise to everyone.”

The next day, Hagseth took the podium in front of the school’s teaching staff and entire student body. She called Chappelle to the stage.

“I couldn’t be more proud of Trenton,” Hagseth told the crowd. “Trenton takes a little longer to complete a lap than his classmates. This did not stop him from wanting to finish a marathon. He was determined to complete every single lap, regardless of how long it took.

“Trenton is a testimony to tenacity, to stick-to-itiveness, to hard work, patience and sheer grit.”

Hagseth presented a lightning yellow T-shirt and a “Giant Otter Note” to the youngster, thanking him for being “a great role model for the students at Oak Hills.”

The students roared their approval. Second-graders waved signs and placards they had made in his honor.

“Let’s go, Trenton!” the students chanted.

“His smile was a mile wide,” Hagseth says. “There wasn’t a dry eye in the place.”

Certainly not from his mother, who was shooting video of the scene.

“I cried the whole way through,” Puglisi says. “When all the kids started cheering for him, I couldn’t stop ... there were tears of happiness.

“I knew there was going to be a speech, but I didn’t realize how big and exciting it was going to be for him — to be the only kid to get up there and be awarded for his accomplishment. I was very surprised, and I was very proud.”

After the assembly, the second-graders entered Trenton’s classroom and handed him the sign he or she had made.

“This was Trenton’s first year at Oak Hills after attending Chehalem his first four years,” Puglisi says. “I didn’t realize how much support he had at this school. It was so heart-warming. They all welcomed him and everything he did.”

Of Oak Hills’ 560 students, 270 made it 10 miles. There were 176 kids who covered 20 miles.

Only 133 were able to go the entire 26.2 miles. Trenton Chappelle was one of them.

“I’m so happy for Trenton,” Hagseth says. “It’s so hard for him to just walk down the hall, let alone go out and walk on a track for 26 miles. He didn’t give up when other kids have.

“His determination was amazing. He’s a positive and happy kid who always says hi to me when he sees me in the hall. We really love him. For him to do what he did was pretty remarkable.”

Trenton moves on to middle school at Mountain View next school year. Life is never going to be easy for the young man with special needs. With a strong family unit and a wealth of intestinal fortitude, though, there’s no reason to think he is not going to be OK.

Not after what he accomplished on the track at Oak Hills Elementary.

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