James Island Connector run brings hope to students with college dreams

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - Runners and walkers around the Lowcountry are getting ready to lace-up their shoes for the annual James Island Connector 10K run and 5K run/walk.

The 16th annual event goes to a scholarship fund called the Gavalas Kolanko Foundation, aimed to help students with disabilities pay for college.

College of Charleston student Joshua Mack says he doesn't know where he'd be without the help from this foundation.

"My major is geology and I'm a Sophomore," said Mack.

The 21-year-old said there was time when he didn't think he'd have that introduction, because he didn't that college was an option for him.

"When I was real young, when I was 7 years old, I was diagnosed with central auditory processing disorder and that affects the way I'll be able to process the information," said Mack.

On top of that, he has a speech learning disorder. Teachers and others discouraged him from higher education.

But, with the help of Gavalas Kolanko scholarship, he took his disabilities as challenges and started college.

"I'm not going to say it was easy, but I just kept on persevering," said Mack.

"Well Joshua is incredibly inspiring," said co-founder of the foundation Nick Gavalas. "He's incredibly active with his community and he epitomizes who we look for in students."

Gavalas created the scholarship 15 years ago with his co-founding partner Ron Kalanko.

They've given 95 scholarships in those years, all to students with some sort of disability.

Gavalas says he can't think of a more deserving recipient.

Meanwhile, Mack says, thanks to this scholarship, he has one message for everyone who tried to stand in his way.

"Whatever you put your mind to, you will be successful and the best way for me is to prove them wrong," said Mack.

Last year, the foundation provided 13 scholarships to students. This year, it jumped up to 21. With the money raised at the James Island Connector Run, Gavalas hopes next year, they'll help provide an education for even more college students.

To register for the race click here:

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