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5K Race Planned to Raise Funds for Rape Survivor

Family says the young woman is no longer a victim; she's a survivor.

For the past three years, she's been known as the Bloomingdale library attack victim.

Her name and photos of her face have been withheld by the media to protect her identity as a rape victim.

Now her mother is asking that her daughter be identified by a new name.

"We are requesting that the media no longer refer to her as a victim," said the mother of the young woman, now 21 years old. "She is not a victim. That was her past. Now she is a victor, and we thank God so much she still with us. We'd like her to be known by a new name, the Bloomingdale library survivor."

Her mother said her daughter, whom she refers to as "our angel," has proven over and over again that she's truly a survivor.

Following the attack in April 2008, the young woman had injuries so severe, she wasn't expected to live.

When she did live, doctors predicted she'd never walk, talk or see again.

However, with physical and occupational therapy, the young woman is now able to take a few steps with assistance, respond to voices and let her desires be known by clinching her fist, widening her eyes and smiling.

Her mother calls her progress nothing short of miraculous.

"Our angel is alive and well and healing more and more every day, and we give God all the glory," said her mother.

"Neither she nor our family look at ourselves as victims anymore, we are all survivors. Yes, we suffered a major physical blow to our daughter and our family but our spirits were not broken," said her mother in an open letter to the media. "Indeed, the spirits in our family united with thousands in our community and brought us blessings beyond comprehension."

She said the outpouring of support from the community played an integral role in their healing.

"To be a part of the love and the affection that has reigned down upon us from people we never even knew before and to be an active part of a Christian community that has opened their arms, their hearts and their prayers for us is a life-altering experience," her mother said, adding that she appreciates the media's efforts to maintain her daughter's privacy while telling her story.

However, there is healing yet to come, added her mother. The young woman is going to need years of therapy to continue progressing.

Over the summer, the community came together to raise funds for her therapy, first hosting a golf tournament on July 10 at , raising $10,000. Then, last month, the community hosted a benefit barbecue at E.G. Simmons Park, raising another $30,000.

Now the community is planning a third fundraiser, a Run 4 Life 5K planned for Saturday, Sept. 3 at Riverview High School, 11311 Boyette Road, Riverview.

Organized by River of Life Christian Center, 6605 Krycul Ave., Riverview, registration for the race begins at 7 a.m., and the race starts at 8. Prizes will be awarded to the top three winners in each age group: 9 years and younger, 10 to 14 years, 15-19, 20-24, 25-29, 30-34, 35-39, 40-44, 45-49, 50-54, 55-59, 60-64 and 65 and older.

The cost is $10 for children 9 and under, $25 for ages 10 and up. The registration fee includes a race packet and a T-shirt.

The high cost of therapy

Although the young woman qualifies for some therapy under a Medicaid waiver obtained with the help of state Sen. Ronda Storms, R-Valrico, the waiver doesn't cover certain therapies that have proven beneficial for the young woman including aqua therapy, oxygen therapy in a hyperbaric chamber and Therasuit therapy at All Children's Hospital.

The Therasuit is a full-body suit that allows the young woman to stand unassisted. With the suit, she can use her muscles to go from sitting to a standing position, her mother said.

In addition, the hospital where she's been receiving physical and speech therapy, South Bay Hospital in Sun City Center, is not a Medicaid waiver provider. Therefore, the therapy she receives there is not covered by the government.

However, the family received good news recently from South Bay. The hospital has offered to provide a year of speech therapy for $50 a month. Normally the therapy would cost $10,688 a year.

Her mother said the speech therapy is needed to strengthen the muscles of the young woman's throat so she can eat solid food. She currently receives sustenance through a feeding tube.

The young woman also is on a waiting list to receive therapy at a program run by Mount Sinai Medical Center that would help retrain the muscles of her brain. That therapy costs $6,000.

"We see improvement every day," said her mother. "Our angel is a survivor."

To register for the upcoming race, visit riveroflifechristiancenter.org or call (813) 677-4453.

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