CHARLOTTE, N.C. — A Charlotte mom turned her cancer diagnosis into a nonprofit that is literally changing lives.
Jenn Andrews lost her foot to cancer and learned insurance companies don’t pay for the tools she and other people with active lifestyles need to get back to their way of life.
So she founded Move for Jenn and this month saw firsthand the impact her effort is having.
"I couldn't believe it at first," Denzel Brinson said after running his first race since losing his leg in 2013.
It was a moment nearly a decade in the making. The former high school football star said he remembered noticing something funky as a teenager.
"When I was in ninth grade I found a knuckle-sized mass under my knee," he said. "I ignored it."
Until the day he got his diploma.
"I graduated high school," Brinson said. "I was walking across the stage and the pain started hitting me right before the ceremony."
It was cancer. Doctors said the only way to save his life was to amputate his leg above the knee. For years, Brinson hid the amputation and got around on a basic prosthetic until he became a dad.
"Really, it was my daughters who changed a whole lot for me," Brinson said. "I have to make a great life for them."
So he searched online for running blades and found Move for Jenn, the nonprofit Andrews started after losing her foot to cancer.
"We wanted to help bridge the gap between what the active amputee needs and what insurance doesn't cover but should," Andrews explained.
Running blades can cost anywhere from $5,000 to $50,000 each, and insurance doesn't cover them. Since founding Move for Jenn just three years ago, Andrews has been able to gift activewear prosthetics to 20 people. That includes Brinson, whose application brought Andrews to tears.
"At the end of it, he said, 'I just need somebody to take a chance on me,'" Andrews said.
The Move for Jenn 5K was Brinson's first race using his new running blade. He also shares daily updates on his training. He hopes to become a competitive runner with the dream of becoming a Paralympian.
"I'm like, 'man, you did it,'" Brinson said. "I was pumped, so happy and grateful and thankful. I still am."
This year's Move for Jenn 5K was the third annual event. Organizers said they were able to raise more than $150,000.