Koecher Family Sled Dog Team

Posted at: 03/03/2013 11:38 PM
Updated at: 03/06/2013 11:39 PM
By: Laura Kennedy

Competing in the John Beargrease sled dog race is a goal for some. But for Billy Koecher, it's a lifelong dream.

"To be a part of it, I love that so much," Billy said. "It's a good race to be a part of."

Billy has cerebal palsy, and has faced many challenges in his life without so much as a complaint. He's always loved sled dog racing, and recently, he decided to take it a step further.

"We started checking into it, started running the dogs and it became a love for our whole family," said Adam Koecher, Billy's dad.

Billy and Adam began training together, and asked Beargrease officials to allow Billy to ride along for the first part of the race.

"They had a unanimous decision to let us run together, which, as far as we know, nobody has ever done as a team in the Beargrease," Adam said.

Adam mans the sled, but make no mistake about it, this is Billy's team.

"The dogs respond to him like none of us. He can get them to do whatever they need to do," Adam said. "One word from him out there and they know. They straighten right up. It's actually really fun and inspiring to watch."

"They're a very good team. I couldn't ask for a better team to work with than this one," Billy said.

Billy is excited to experience his favorite sled dog race with his dad behind him.

"I couldn't ask him for anything more," Billy said. "He's helped me a lot and I'd just like to thank him for letting me use his legs. My legs aren't so strong. I'd just like to thank him for that."

The feeling is mutual.

"To get to do something with your son that you know he's wanted to do for so long, and to be part of it, it's the best feeling I could have," Adam said.

Billy's mom, Jenny, says many people deserve credit for making this happen for her son.

"I want to thank the Beargrease, they've been so wonderful and we appreciate every one of them," Jenny said. "I also want to thank Dr. David Gordon and Bill and Rita from Stony Creek Kennels. "We're really blessed to be part of the mushing community."

But Billy's gratitude is especially reserved for those he loves most.

"They've always been supportive of me," Billy said. "I have a good family and they help me accomplish my dreams that I've wanted for a long time."