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Running for Inclusion: Jeremy’s Journey in Honor of His Father

In the crisp late fall of 2021, Jeremy and his father, Chris Hebda, shared a special bond over their love for running. Their exhilarating 3-mile runs were more than just a physical activity; they were moments of connection and bonding between a father and his son. Chris, a long-distance runner himself, saw potential in Jeremy and encouraged him to pursue his passion for running.

After one particular run, Chris couldn’t contain his excitement. “He beat me. I think he’s got it now. I think he’s ready to do the Gate River Run!” he exclaimed, filled with pride in his son’s progress.

Tragically, before they could fulfill their plans to conquer the Gate River Run together, Chris passed away in January 2022. Devastated by the loss of his best friend and running partner, Jeremy made a heartfelt decision to honor his father’s memory by continuing their shared dream. Determined to run the Gate River Run in his father’s honor, Jeremy found support in unexpected places.

Dave, a fellow church member, stepped up to be Jeremy’s running partner for the 15K race. Together, they crossed the finish line in 1 hour and 31 minutes, a testament to Jeremy’s resilience and the power of community.

The following year, Jeremy faced the daunting task of running the 15K alone. Despite his inner strength, the journey felt lonely without his father by his side. However, fate intervened when Jeremy connected with Stephanie Young of Challenge Enterprises and Robert Raesemann with the Ability Experience.

Joining the #RunforInclusion team was a turning point for Jeremy. Supported by a community dedicated to championing inclusion, Jeremy found solace in knowing he wasn’t alone on his journey. His mother, Joanne Hebda, expressed her gratitude, stating, “This has been an answer to our prayers.”

Jeremy’s father often reminded him, “It’s the hard days that make you better.” True to these words, Jeremy persevered through the challenges, never giving up on his dreams. With newfound friends and a sense of purpose, Jeremy embarked on a new chapter of his running journey—one that was bigger than himself.

In his role with the Shipboard Logistics team at NAS Mayport, Jeremy plays a vital role in supporting the US Navy. As a leader in federal contracting for people with disabilities through the SourceAmerica AbilityOne program, Challenge Enterprises has provided opportunities for individuals like Jeremy to contribute meaningfully to their community.

Through their work in securing federal contracts for people with disabilities, Challenge Enterprises ensures that ships and submarines in the Florida and Georgia area are loaded and unloaded with precision, bolstering the efforts of the US Navy.

As Jeremy continues to lace up his running shoes and advocate for inclusion, he carries his father’s memory in his heart with each step. With every race he completes and every barrier he breaks, Jeremy honors his father’s legacy while forging a path of his own—one that celebrates diversity, resilience, and the power of community.

Jeremy with his father, Chris
Race Bib from Gate River Run 2022
Robbie, Jeremy and Robert Training for the Gate River Run 2024