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Running with Ryan

Brad Gentz, left, and Ryan Hemann, right, both of Osage, participate in races together. Gentz was in charge of fundraising efforts to purchase a special racing chair for Hemann, 15, who has spina bifida.

OSAGE — A mail carrier from Osage who runs races while pushing a teenager in a wheelchair he met on his route will receive an award in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 21.

The National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC) will present Brad Gentz with the Humanitarian of the Year Award during its annual Heroes of the Year luncheon.

Gentz, whose running partner is Ryan Hemann, 16, a sophomore at Osage High School who has spina bifida, is one of six individual mail carriers to be honored during the luncheon.

Others who will be receiving awards include carriers who have saved the lives of people on their routes and a NALC branch that surprised a seriously ill child by organizing a parade for him when he was released from the hospital.

Gentz, who has been a mail carrier for 18 years, said the news about his award came as “a complete shock.”

“I don’t for the life of me think I’m deserving of any award,” he said. “I just wanted to push a kid in a wheelchair in a race.”

Gentz began raising money during the summer of 2015 for a $7,500 racing chair specially built to fit Hemann. The campaign was called Running With Ryan.

The chair arrived in time for Hemann to use it for the Kickoff to Kinnick 5K race in Iowa City last September.

Since then Gentz and Hemann have participated in several other races together.

Gentz is being flown to Washington to accept his award. He will be accompanied by his fiancee, and his brother and sister-in-law will bring his father there as well.

Several days of activities are planned for the award winners, including a sightseeing bus tour.

Gentz also will have a chance to do some on-site practice for the Marine Corps Marathon to be held on Oct. 30.

Gentz will return to Washington, this time accompanied by Hemann, for this race. The two of them learned earlier this year that they had been chosen by lottery to be among the participants.

Gentz said he will accept his award on the behalf of the Osage community, which has wholeheartedly supported Running With Ryan, and the entire state. He said the University of Iowa and Iowa State University have given their support.

Gentz said he’s happy that his award means more publicity for Hemann and hopes it will inspire others “to do something nice for somebody.”

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Mary Pieper is a reporter for the Mason City Globe Gazette, another Lee Enterprises newspaper.

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