Ten years ago, Chelsea Clanton had everything going for her. After numerous athletic accomplishments at Great Bend High School including WAC Championships for cross country and track events, she was running for the varsity team in college and pursuing her dreams. After graduating from Wichita State University, she grew a successful career in Human Resources and continued to run and train in her spare time. But that all came to a crashing halt last fall when Chelsea was in a tragic car accident that eventually resulted in the amputation of her left leg above the knee.
“After the accident, Chelsea fought for weeks in and out of surgeries with both knees dislocated, a broken right ankle, and so much pain. It was so hard to watch,” says Kayla Benedick, Clanton’s mother. “She couldn’t walk at all. It was so hard watching my baby girl go through this, but we are all so happy and thankful she is still here with us. She is a strong and determined person, and she is going to do big things. This won’t keep her down.”
Since getting out of the hospital in mid-December, she has been working with a physical therapist and has been fitted for a new prosthetic device. But all of that comes at a cost. To help offset the mounting expenses, some of Clanton’s high school classmates have organized a fundraiser known as the “Still Standing 5K” to generate funds and emotional support for Clanton and her family.
“Our friend Chelsea is one of the best runners we know, and her fighting spirit is an inspiration to a lot of people. What better way to raise money and show our support for an all-star track and cross country athlete than to organize a 5K event?” said high school classmate Valerie McAtee, organizer of the Still Standing 5K.
“But this 5K is a little different,” McAtee said. It’s a virtual event, meaning there isn’t an actual race in a specific town on a specific day. Anyone from anywhere can give online and get signed up for the virtual race before March 30, and their race T-shirt will ship directly to their house.
“Then they can put in their 3.1 miles any time after that (or not) and post a photo with our hashtag so Clanton can see their support from around the country,” McAtee said.
McAtee and the other volunteers hope to see an outpouring of registrations for the virtual 5K event from all over the state, since Clanton and her family have connections in Great Bend, Emporia where she ran in college, and in Wichita where she now lives and built her career.
“We’ve already seen a huge response, but are hoping to keep the traction going until the cut-off date for online registrations and donations closes on March 30th,” McAtee said. “Chelsea has a lot of medical bills piling up, plus modifications that need to be made to her home and an expensive prosthetic leg to pay for. Our goal is to help cover a significant portion of that to take the burden off of her shoulders.”
Clanton’s family reports that she is hopeful about getting back to her passion of running at some point in the future. “Chelsea’s starting all over, learning to stand and walk and balance. Just taking a shower and getting ready for a doctor’s appointment is a lot of work at this point,” said Benedick. “But down the road she hopes to learn how to run with a prosthesis and inspire others who have gone through traumatic events to keep pursuing their passions. It’s one step at a time right now, but all of this support has meant the world to her and to our family.”
With traction building around the region, volunteers for the fundraiser are asking for the public’s support leading up to the donation deadline at the end of this month. Anyone interested in registering for the virtual 5K event, or in donating through the event webpage, can visit the Facebook page listed under Still Standing 5K for Chelsea Clanton, or search for the virtual 5K event on RunSignUp.com.
Photos and other information can be found by searching the event hashtag, #CheeringforChelsea, on social media.