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Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Kenny Page Jr.

Who is he? Kenny Page Jr.

Where is he? Alvord Boulevard

Why is he there? To help others finish a half-marathon, even though he can’t.

At the bottom of the Alvord Boulevard overpass at the Lloyd Expressway, a red-haired man shouted encouragement to the group of runners participating in the YMCA half-marathon training program on an August weeknight. The participants, a range of teenage, baby boomer, and octogenarian runners, loved the support. “Thanks, Kenny,” one runner breathlessly panted. Kenny Page Jr. — an Oakland City, Ind., native — has become one of the Evansville Half Marathon’s biggest fans, but running in the annual October event isn’t for Kenny.

Ten years ago, Kenny, who was just beginning his career as a roofer, was finishing a long day’s work of repair atop the priests’ home at St. Bernard Parish in Fort Branch, Ind., when he fell 15 feet, breaking his neck. The accident left him in a coma. His co-worker and brother, Matthew, was on the other side of the home, and how Kenny fell remains unclear. Eighteen days later, Kenny woke from the coma, and after years of recovery, his motor skills never fully returned to normal. His sense of balance is distorted, confining him to a motorized wheelchair.

Before the accident, Kenny was active, his mother Judy remembers. He’d bike just under 15 miles from Oakland City to the Princeton Walmart occasionally. Once, he stuffed a dollar in his sock to buy a beverage and refuel his energy before trekking back, but the buck fell out along the way. “He had to turn around and come all the way back without even a drink,” Judy says with a laugh. As a child, Kenny would bolt from his front door for runs. “A neighbor saw him one day and said, ‘That boy was flat out moving. Why doesn’t he run track?’” Judy says. “He did it for himself.”

His love of running influences his decision to support YMCA half-marathon runners every year since 2004. “They inspire me,” Kenny says, and for the runners, the feeling is mutual. When Judy is out with her son, they usually run into half-marathoners who know Kenny. “If Kenny isn’t there at the overpass, sometimes they call and say, ‘Where’s Kenny?’” she says. “I can’t keep up with it all.” 

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