Donovan McBride took three laps around the Waterloo High School track.
Leaning forward for speed in his sleek, lime green racing wheelchair, the 13-year-old used his thick leather gloves to push the big rear wheels. Again and again. Faster and faster.
He also turned the heads of several Mascoutah track athletes warming up before their meet with Waterloo. “Man, look at him go!” one of them said. “I wish I could go that fast.”
Donovan will lead the Shriners Parade 5K at 6:30 p.m. May 29 on Belleville’s Main Street just before the Shriners Circus Parade begins at 7:30. Donovan, who was born with spina bifida and clubfeet, spent much of his first five years in Shriners Hospital in St. Louis. His mother, Kim McBride, said being in the race is a good way to say “thank you” to the Shriners for their assistance. But that’s not why Donovan is racing.
“I want to win,” said Donovan, who recently completed eighth grade at Waterloo Junior High School. He usually wears leg braces and uses a walker to get around. But when he slips into his green Xcalibur, he’s a blur.
He recently participated in a 5K in O’Fallon. “I got a two-minute head start,” he said, “but I finished seventh overall.” He completed the race in 20 minutes.
“Not a single runner passed him,” said Mom Kim, beaming with pride. “Of course, I was bawling like a baby when he finished.”
Kim, now 36, was 19 weeks pregnant with Donovan when he was diagnosed with spina bifida. He had fetal surgery at Vanderbilt University, “basically to close up his back” at 23 weeks, Kim said. “He was born nine weeks later.”
Donovan spent his first two weeks at St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in Belleville. Then it was visits to Shriners Hospital four to six times a week for a few weeks, and they frequented the hospital until he turned 5. When he was a baby, he had to have a cast reapplied to his legs every week to twist his bones just a bit more each time. He has undergone seven surgeries since birth.
“Physically, all the landmarks like crawling, came late, but he caught up,” said Kim, who is a nurse for Dr. David Norman, a Belleville pediatrician. “You would think after all of that, he would have developmental disabilities, but academically, he is keeping up with his peers.”
Donovan uses a wheelchair only about 2 percent of the time. But somewhere along the line, he decided to see how fast his regular chair could go.
“He hit 34 to 35 minutes for a 5K in that first regular chair,” Kim said. That’s when Kim decided he needed a racing chair.
“Whatever I want or need for Donovan, I seek after and I get,” Kim said. “In October, he got his racing wheelchair, a handmade Xcalibur, thanks to St. Louis Variety Club. Variety Club has always been very helpful.”
In February or March, Kim said, she helped get Donovan involved in track racing with the Disabled Athletes Sports Association in St. Peters, Mo.
“They have seven other kids competing in wheelchairs,” Kim said. “And two girls with spina bifida. It’s good for Donovan to see others trying so hard, too.”
Kim drives Donovan and his Xcalibur to practices twice a week in Town & Country and St. Charles, Mo.
“It’s a lot of running,” Kim said, “but it’s worth it. ... The smile on his face when he’s racing is priceless.”
Donovan had his first track competition last weekend. How did he do?
“He killed it,” Kim said. “He finished first in his age division in every race.”
Donovan’s goal: “I’m trying to beat 1 minute, 2 seconds for a lap (400 meters). Now I’m at 1 (minute) 17.” So he has been lifting weights and working out every chance he gets.
“If I had more power, it would go faster.”
When told there would be people lined up all along Main Street in Belleville for the Shriners Circus Parade on May 29 and they would probably be cheering on him and other participants, Donovan said, “Cool.”
But he will have his intense brown eyes fixed on the finish line.
“I want to beat all the runners — even without a head start.”
Meet Donovan McBride
School: just finished eighth grade at Waterloo Junior High; will attend Waterloo High School next fall
Parents: Kim, 36, and Ferdinand McBride Jr., 39, of rural Waterloo. Kim is a nurse for Belleville pediatrician Dr. David Norman; Ferdinand is a carpenter for Finnerty Construction.
Service dog: A golden doodle named Elyse
Pastime: Action video games including Call of Duty, Grand Theft Auto, Battlefield; playing with a cousins
Subject in school: P.E.
Television shows: “Fun stuff” like “America’s Funniest Videos,” “Practical Jokers,” “World’s Dumbest”
Food: Macaroni and cheese
Hobby: Fishing for catfish, bluegill, crappie and bass
Shriners Parade 5K
When: 6:30 p.m. May 29, before the Shriners Circus Parade
Where: The race begins at 721 E. Main St. and is an out-and-back course on downtown Main Street in Belleville.
Packet pickup: 4-7 p.m. May 28 at Belleville Parks and Recreation, 510 W. Main St.; 4-6:15 p.m. May 29 in upper parking lot of Union United Methodist Church, 721 E. Main St.
Benefits: Shriners Hospital and Belleville summer children’s programs.