Boy, 9, Stars in Wheelchair Marathon Race

Times Staff Writer

When more than a dozen disabled youngsters left the start line among 2,207 other runners in Sunday’s “Run For Kids Who Can’t” in Costa Mesa, there was hardly a dry eye in the crowd.

But the winner of the five-kilometer handicapped run, sandy-haired J.D. Caligori, 9, surprised everyone when he rose from his wheelchair, walked 20 feet to the platform and accepted his trophy to thunderous applause.

“J.D. ran our race for the first time three years ago and he took everybody’s heart with him,” event spokesman John Francis recalled.

“He’d been operated on for the 23rd time just seven weeks earlier. When his name was called today and he was able to get out of his wheelchair, he brought the house down. . . .

The seventh annual race meet was a benefit for Childrens Hospital of Orange County (CHOC). The races drew a record number competing in cool, clear weather.


That was expected to translate into record proceeds for the annual fund-raiser of at least $25,000 after expenses, said Mike Harrison, president of the Padrinos, the men’s volunteer support group for CHOC.

Last year, the 630-member group raised a total of $189,000 in six fund-raisers--$23,000 of it from the 1984 CHOC South Coast Classic.

The more than 3,000 people who watched Sunday’s event were also treated to some world-class performances.

First-place winner in the men’s 10-kilometer race was 1984 San Francisco Marathon winner Simeon Kigen of Kenya. First-place winner in the women’s 10K was Sue Brenda, with a time of 34 minutes, 21 seconds.