When a young girl named Ainsley was given a terminal diagnosis, her big sister Briley, only six at the time, knew everything was about to change. Ainsley is now wheelchair bound, but her sister is giving her the legs and voice she could never use.
As a toddler, Ainsley Rossiter appeared to be healthy and happy. However, her parents' intuition about something being off kicked when her development slowed. "At about 15 months she was not walking yet and she wasn't talking much," said Ainsley's father, Major Kim "Rooster" Rossiter.
It took two years of testing to get the diagnosis: infantile neuroaxonal dystrophy or INAD. It is a deadly genetic disorder that attacks the nervous system - with a life expectancy of only 10 years. "Unfortunately it is terminally progressive and we cherish every day that we have with Ainsley," said Rooster, "knowing the severity of this diagnosis."
While Rooster and mother, Lori, came to terms with the devastating news, Briley also had to cope with seeing her little sister's body and mind deteriorate.
Briley has learned a lot since news of the diagnosis at age six. Now at 11 years old, she is accomplishing something extraordinary: Writing a book about her life with now 9-year-old Ainsley. "I want children to get the message of inclusion and even though Ainsley is in a wheelchair, she's the same as you and me and she has feelings too," said Briley.
"Running is definitely my favorite thing to do with Ainsley," said Briley, "because it's something that no one ever though she would be able to do, but here she is today doing it with me."
Ainsley has completed 40 races, 12 of them pushed to the finish line by her big sister. "She can inspire people so easily and her legacy is amazing," said Briley, "She's done so much without even knowing that she's doing it."
But it is what these sisters are doing together - on the road and now on the pages of a children's book - that they hope will always keep the legacy of this special girl alive.
Briley, Ainsley and Ainsley's Angels served as grand marshals for the July 4th parade in Lake Charles. The Rossiter family lives in Virginia Beach, Virginia, but visits family frequently in Southwest Louisiana. Rooster and Lori are both Barbe High School graduates.