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Overcoming 'hard things' one stride at a time

A sixth grader with autism and visual impairment isn't letting her disabilities get in the way of her goals.

FACTORYVILLE, Pa. — Regan Pashchuck, age 12, is not your average sixth grader. Regan has autism and a rare eye condition that causes sensitivity to bright light and loss of color vision.

Regan's mom Jenifer Reich says school has been hard for her daughter. Recently, Regan took on a motto for when things got tough for her, "I can do hard things."

"She can't see, and she's shy, and she's in her own little bubble, and we're always trying to get her out of her shell, and when she came home with the paper for Girls on the Run, and she wanted to do it, I was like, 'Definitely.' She wants to," Reich said.

The Girls on the Run program is new to the Lackawanna Trail School District. It's meant to empower girls and give them a chance to learn life skills. A 5-K race was held last month. Regan completed her first big challenge and immediately fell in love with running.

"Running makes me feel good. I don't really think about anything," Regan said.

"The feel of a fabric may be different, maybe the sound of the wind, maybe a sound, all these different sensations that she's feeling. She has to overcome that before she can even jump in and go for her run. So for her to do that is a big deal," said Linde Maurer, Regan's personal care assistant.

Regan's mom and teachers say they've already seen her growth. Regan says things aren't as hard as they used to be.

"I've made friends, and that was a little hard, but I did it, I guess," Regan said.

"She's breaking barriers every day, and the Girls on the Run program has done nothing but help her shatter a ceiling that she doesn't even really know she's shattered through just yet. She's going places, and we're all so proud of her," said Tara Conway, Regan's special education teacher.

Regan's teachers and family say she inspires them every day. Regan says she plans to keep running and set new goals.

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