BY LINDSAY MCCOY

Times Bulletin News Writer

lmccoy@timesbulletin.com

VAN WERT - Van Wert Elementary will be holding an assembly for a special guest this week. On Thursday, Dec. 6, cross-country runner Sami Stoner will be meeting with fourth and fifth graders to tell her inspirational story. Stoner lost her vision and was able to keep running with the aid of her guide dog.
"We are hoping students will take away the idea that they can overcome obstacles and should never give up," said Van Wert Elementary Guidance Counselor Angie Murphy. "We want students to keep trying when they have a passion, and we are very excited to welcome this message from Sami Stoner who has also shared her story with ABC News."

Stoner was a member of her local cross-country team in Lexington, OH, until losing her vision and being diagnosed as legally blind as an eighth grader. She was suffering from an untreatable disease usually affecting older adults. Fortunately with the help of her guide dog, Chloe, she beat the odds and continued to run the cross-country courses. Stoner is believed to be the first high school student athlete in the state of Ohio to compete with an animal.

In an interview with ABC news, Stoner remarked, "I don't run for time or place or anything, I just run because I love it, and I am glad I can share my love of running with Chloe now. I love having Chloe. She's helped me so much. She watches out for roots and she tries to pick the clearest path for me." Chloe moves in a way that Stoner is able to feel through the harness allowing her to maneuver safely through the course.

While Stoner is ineligible to score, her story has given a lot of hope to other kids. Along with ABC News, Stoner has also shared her story with ESPN. Van Wert Elementary is now hopeful that Stoner's touching story will positively effect and encourage the lives of local students.

Stoner will be meeting with the children in two sessions and will also be sharing lunch at the school. Stoner will meet with fifth graders from 9:15-9:45 a.m. and fourth graders from 10:00-10:30 a.m. Parents and those interested can view more about Stoner's interesting story on YouTube which shows her running with the golden retriever and explaining her experience.