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Carthage girl runs first race with her new pair of legs - KOAM TV 7

A heart full of determination

Carthage girl runs first race with her new pair of legs

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A girl from Carthage, Missouri shows friends her incredible strength and determination.

The story begins in Vietnam.  A baby was born out of an affair, and out of humiliation the couple strapped a bomb around them while holding on to the baby.

The baby survived, but not without a reminder of that day.  She lost both of her legs and now, at the age of nine, still has a burn mark.

Shelly Shepherd of Carthage, Missouri and her family went to Vietnam and adopted Haven, who was then 19-months-old.

"When I started to get older I kept asking my mom 'what happened to my real parents?' and she started to tell me - 'they strapped bombs to themselves and held you, and blew themselves up, and blew your legs off,'" Haven says.

"They actually said she would've probably just either begged on the street, or been trafficked by some kind of really bad person that really likes a child with no legs," says mom Shelly.

"They just brought me into the family," Haven says.

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Two years ago while wearing her prosthetic walking legs Haven took a fall.

"She really believed she was going to win and she was running really fast and just took a really hard tumble," says Shepherd.  "She just buried her face in her dad's chest."

Haven's mom says it was the first time her daughter felt disabled.

"That was the first time I sat on my Dad's lap and I said, 'Mom, I want a pair of those ugly running legs,'" Haven told us.

An organization called Challenged Athletes gave Haven running legs that are worth about $30,000.

"We laugh, you know, instead of 'Haven, where's your shoes?' it's 'Haven, where's your legs?' or a leg falls out of the van," Shelly says.

On Thursday, Carthage elementary students ran in a school competition.  Haven used her new running legs for the race.  She finish the race and placed fourth.

- - -

Haven is determined to not miss out on anything in life.  And she wants to share her story of survival and purpose in life.

"Obviously with her, she has this dramatic story, but honestly, everyone has a dramatic story and I just so want her to understand 'you have a purpose,'" Shelly says.

"My mom taught me to not really care what other people think and other people say," says Haven.  "I'm not really afraid to talk about my legs.  There's no off limits of that."

Haven wants to continue running and take part in sports throughout her life.

Thursday's run comes close to a dream Haven once told her mom.  Haven said she wanted to feel what it was like to wiggle her toes.

"I really don't care if I have fake legs or not," Haven says.  "My mom taught me this saying: 'it really doesn't matter if you have fake legs or real, everybody will fall down but getting up is the big deal.'"

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