Kirk accepts race challenge from young stroke survivor

Sen. Mark Kirk accepted a challenge from a young constituent and fellow stroke survivor to go head to head in a race.

The Illinois Republican posted a video on Instagram on Wednesday of him and Jackson Cunningham standing at the starting line on the University of Illinois football field.

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The pair struck up a correspondence after a then-nine-year-old Cunningham sent Kirk a get-well wish following the senator’s stroke in 2012. The Little Leaguer was recovering from a 2011 pediatric stroke at the time. The two became pen pals and bonded over Cunningham’s love of zombies and the lawmaker’s Senate desk filled with candy. Cunningham even traveled to Washington to visit Kirk at the Capitol.

On his website, Kirk, 54, writes of Cunningham, “As a young boy who loves playing sports with friends, Jackson’s number one goal was to run again. During one of our visits, shortly after Jackson had began running again, he challenged me to a race.”

“This week, Jackson and I fulfilled that promise,” says Kirk, before teasing, “Find out who won:”

Kirk is seen taking a starting stance just before the race begins while wearing a baseball cap and using a cane. The clip is edited and doesn’t show Kirk or Cunningham during the running competition. “Oh, we got a winner in Jackson Cunningham!” an announcer exclaims as the boy crosses the finish line.

Kirk praises his young pal on his website, saying Cunningham’s story “encouraged me to work even harder at my recovery.” 

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