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Eight-year-old Ruby Ten Haken may never hit a softball or kick a soccer ball with her dad, Mark, but he has found a way to connect with her through running.

Mark and his wife, Kelli Ten Haken, parents of Ruby and members of Calvary Christian Reformed Church of Holland, Mich., adopted Ruby as an infant from Ethiopia, not knowing of her special needs. Within months of coming home she was diagnosed with a severe form of epilepsy called Lennox-Gastaut, cerebral palsy, and global brain scarring. Pushing her in a jogger stroller on long-distance runs has been something Mark can share with his daughter. “On a pie chart of what you can do with your kids, Ruby’s sliver is the smallest,” said Ten Haken. “[Running is] something that is good for me and something we enjoy.”

One of the results of all that running is that Ten Haken, along with his brother Paul Ten Haken, will be competing on “Spartan: Ultimate Team Challenge,” a reality show produced by NBC. They were selected last October, and the show premieres on June 13. Paul is a member of Shalom CRC in Sioux Falls, S.D.

“It was a motivating factor to get in shape. I did that with my kids. Ruby always enjoyed it and always enjoyed movement,” sad Mark.

After the filming of the reality show concluded, Ten Haken continued to train while pushing Ruby, with the goal of running in the Fifth-Third Riverbank Run in Grand Rapids, Mich. On Saturday, May 14, Mark and Ruby completed the 15.5 mile race, maintaining a 10-minute mile pace. “I pushed her the whole way through the 25K and I wanted the goal of doing it myself,” said Ten Haken.

Mark and Kelli know that Ruby has limitations, but they take one day at a time. “It is almost a relief to know where the ceiling and floor are . . . this is who Ruby is and this is the relationship we are going to have with her. We found a peace in that,” Mark said.

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