His brother’s keeper

It’s a little unsettling now that the plan is in place.

No more desserts, no more fast food, and remember all those all-you-can-eat sushi spreads? Say sayonara. Instead, it’s salad for lunch and jogs after work.

Which is quite the turnaround.

“Endless buffets of everything,” said Jason Iloreta about how he let his diet slip and packed on a few pounds after he graduated from Gonzaga University last year. “It was really bad.”

But it’s healthy living now. Fruits, veggies and pounding the pavement three times a week at 10-minute miles in his Wailua Homesteads neighborhood. He’s never been much of a runner, but by steadily clipping away he’s getting closer to his normal 175 pound weight.

It has to feel great, right?

“It’s completely new and scary,”Jason said about his quest, his mission, his reason for getting in shape.

Because it’s not just for him. Jason’s older brother, Josh, has cerebral palsy, a chronic condition that affects body movement and muscle coordination. Josh, 25, who was diagnosed at birth after his umbilical cord wrapped around his neck and cut off oxygen, is confined to a wheelchair and communicates with an electronic voice through a computer and keypad. But communicate he can, especially with his brother, who has a way of finishing his sentences.

“Twelfth grade,” Josh typed on his screen when asked if he’s excited to be a part of his brother’s new journey, one they’re actually doing together.

“In the 12th grade he thought about doing races,” Jason continued. “That’s what he told me.”

So Jason is training to take Josh on a race. He’s training to take Josh on a lot of races, triathlons even, where Josh will float along his side as Jason swims and ride along side him in a cart on the bicycle.

It’s an idea he came across after watching videos of Team Hoyt, the father son duo, where Dick the dad pushes Rick, who has cerebral palsy, through marathons and half Ironmans. Jason wants to give his older brother the thrill of the road and water, just like the famous tandem, and send a message, to boot.

“We want to shift that perception,” Jason said of their campaign, titled “I am my ability. I am not my disability.”

“They are not retarded, ashamed or pitiful or a burden, but that they have other human capabilities beyond what holds them back,” he said

Around 764,000 in the United States manifest one or more of the symptoms of cerebral palsy, according to the resource website cerebralpalsy.org

The Iloreta brothers’ goal was to run their first half marathon at the Kauai Marathon Sept. 6, but they’re pushing that back until next year. They’re in the process of raising money to buy a $6,500 wheelchair that can handle all the miles and double as a trailer for bicycle rides. They’ve raised over $2,000 so far.

“I think it’s just inspiring to see two brothers that close,” said their friend, Lucas Gushikuma, who organized the inaugural fundraiser through the Lihue Missionary Church, which they all attend. “Jason loves his brother so much and it’s so nice to see.”

It was Lucas’s initial push that actually put the plan into place. He and Jason had talked about the idea of doing races like they saw on YouTube clips. But when Lucas actually raised $500 unbeknownst to the brothers while Jason was visiting family back in Las Vegas over the holidays, it raised the stakes.

“My heart just dropped,” Jason said. “I thought, this is it, I have to start running.”

And running he is. Some weeks are better than others. There was the lull he hit after he got in a heated argument in a grocery store parking lot because a driver thought Josh was navigating his chair too slowly.

Jason didn’t run for a while after that. And there was the adjustment returning to a caregiver’s role, which took some getting used to after the freedom college life affords a young adult.

And there’s the stress of trying to organize fundraising for the first time, on top of his part-time job as a teacher aid at Kapaa Middle School.

But it’s not a burden. He wants to do it. Josh, too. Josh scolds when he sees Jason reaching for dessert, encourages him to go for a jog — “a slave driver,” as Jason called it. Josh always wanted to play football and still dreams of a scholarship to go to college. He wants to take liberal arts classes and loves music but he’s wanted to race for years, now.

“Twelfth grade,” he said. Ever since the 12th grade.

Info: keepingupwiththeiloretabros.weebly.com or (808) 652-0887.

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