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Las Vegas mother turns running into family affair

Whenever Eden Capsouto has a trying moment — there are many for the Las Vegas mother of three children affected by cerebral palsy — she turns to her trusty Team Hoyt video for solace.

“They have always inspired me,” Capsouto said of the Hoyts — father Dick and disabled son Rick — who have completed more than 1,000 endurance events together across the country.

Dick pulls Rick in a special boat as they swim, carries him in a special seat in the front of his bicycle and pushes him in a special wheelchair as they run.

On Sunday, Capsouto, 37, will push her 20-year-old daughter, Taylor, in the Zappos.com Rock ’n’ Roll Las Vegas Marathon and Half-Marathon.

“Taylor is so free and happy when I’m running, it’s like she’s running,” Capsouto said. “Every Saturday and Sunday, she says, ‘When are we going training?’

“She gets up early and puts her workout clothes on and her tennis shoes on and gets ready to go.”

A special education teacher at Henderson’s Galloway Elementary School — where she works with autistic children ages 3 to 6 — Capsouto saw immediate changes in Taylor’s behavior when they started running together more than a year ago.

“I saw a decrease in negative behavior and an increase in everything from her social skills to her language,” she said. “It’s something meaningful and important to her.”

After seeing the positive effect running had on her daughter and the reaction they received at races, Capsouto and her husband, Tony, started a myTEAM TRIUMPH-Light of Las Vegas chapter — an athletic ride-along program for people with disabilities who wouldn’t normally be able to experience endurance events.

The nonprofit organization — which was established in September and will participate in its first marathon Sunday — pairs runners, called angels, with disabled people, called captains.

“I just had had it in my heart to do something,” Capsouto said. “I’ve been involved with special ed for so long, and I’m so passionate about including other kiddos and individuals with special needs and get them out in the community.”

Capsouto’s 16-year-old daughter, Erin, will be pushed in the marathon Sunday by Peter Kline, a Seattle resident and resident angel who pushed Taylor 26.2 miles in last year’s Las Vegas marathon.

“(Taylor) loved it, so I promised her I would do it this year,” Capsouto said. “Erin’s all pumped up. It’s all they’ve been talking about all week. They tell people, ‘I’m running the race next week.’”

Taylor, a Green Valley High School graduate, works for Opportunity Village’s Job Discovery Program. Erin attends Coronado High School, and her twin brother, Jorden, attends Southeast Career Technical Academy.

Capsouto said her ultimate goal is to complete a triathlon with each of her daughters.

“My son probably wouldn’t want his mom pulling him through,” she said.

Eden and Taylor Capsouto have competed in several 5k and 10k races, but this will be their first half-marathon (13.1 miles).

“Everyone can do it,” Eden said. “I’m not an athlete. I’m just a normal person who put on tennis shoes and decided to run.”

The humble, soft-spoken Capsouto is not normal; she’s extraordinary.

A Las Vegas native and Cimarron-Memorial High School graduate, she was inspired by her children — each of whom was born premature, at 24 weeks gestation, less than 2 pounds apiece — to become a special education teacher.

While juggling her job and family as a single mom for 10 years — Capsouto was divorced when the twins were 5 (her children’s last name is Little) and remarried last year — she somehow found time to go back to school.

She earned her bachelor’s degree and master’s degree from UNLV in special education with an emphasis on early childhood development and autism.

“It has its moments,” she said of working with autistic children. “But when a kid learns how to talk or say some words, it makes it all worth it. The good moments outweigh the challenges, for sure.”

The challenges of raising three children with cerebral palsy are relentless, be it medical, behavioral, educational issues or otherwise.

“It’s basically day to day because there’s always something new that comes up,” Capsouto said. “We’re still dealing with it, and we always will.”

Not that she would change a thing about her children.

“My kids are a blessing,” she said. “If God came down here and said, ‘Eden, I could change all this right now,’ I would not want it changed one bit.

“The way these kids have changed me as a person and others around them is just amazing, teaching forgiveness and unconditional love. They’ve taught me patience, to have faith and to trust.”

■ NOTE — The Light of Las Vegas is looking for angels, captains and donations to purchase equipment for families, as chairs cost about $500 apiece. Those interested can go to www.mtt-lasvegas.org.

Contact reporter Todd Dewey at tdewey@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0354. Follow him on Twitter: @tdewey33.

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