ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Mo. – A teenager from the St. Louis area is proving that a debilitating health condition isn't enough to keep him down.
Jeremiah Boothe is one of the hundreds of people from the St. Louis area who are running through the Disney theme parks in Orlando during the annual Disney Marathon weekend.
Jeremiah, 13, has had asthma his entire life and air quality in St. Louis can make it worse. Growing up he often felt alone and rejected because he wasn't able to go outside and play like the other kids.
"I used to feel like I wasn’t like any other kid because the way I was breathing," says he said. "I couldn’t do things like everybody else was doing."
Jeremiah's asthma was so bad he was in and out of the hospital getting breathing treatments. He spent much of his younger years in and out of the hospital due to an extreme form of asthma.
His mother, LaPorcha Boothe, said it has been hard for him to understand why it's happening to him.
"Feeling like you’re different was always the question he wanted to know," she said.
LaPorcha said it made him extremely lonely at times.
"‘Why me, why can’t I be out there with other kids? Why was this chosen for me?’” she said. “‘Why did I have to hear kids say things that were not good because I can’t breathe?’"
But thanks to a program at his school—the Healthy Kids Asthma Express bus—and an asthma coach, Jeremiah and his mom are now taking a once-in-a-lifetime trip.
Cigna, who sponsors the bus and is the title sponsor of the Disney Marathon, is providing Jeremiah and his mom with an all-expenses-paid trip to Disney to run the 5K.
"When you hear what Jeremiah and LaPorcha have been through and how they’ve advanced their life, it makes it really easy for us at Cigna to support great causes like this," said Brian Henry, a vice president at Cigna.
For Jeremiah, this trip is just the beginning. He hopes to someday run a marathon and continue getting in better shape. For his mom, this is a springboard to greater things.
"Like I tell him, your life is an open book. Whatever you want to do to fill these pages, I’m here to back you up 100-percent," she said.