More than 45,500 competitors channeled the Force throughout the 2nd annual Star Wars Half Marathon – The Dark Side race events at Walt Disney World Resort this past month, but for one family from Little Rock, Ark., the event was about a lot more than just lightsabers, Wookiees and race medals.

Kurt Blankenship won his division during the intergalactic 13.1-mile half marathon and his wife, Carrie, and their three children participated in the 200-meter run during the runDisney Kids Races. None of that is particularly remarkable until you consider that Kurt competed in the wheelchair division and the three children all are wrestling with various types of medical issues, including their 4-year-old son Ryan, who has spina bifida.

After a 1999 car accident left him paralyzed from the waist down, Kurt admittedly struggled for years to cope with his new reality. But once he got married and started a family, he gained a new purpose for his life – showing his family they can overcome any obstacle that stands in their way.

That’s what the Star Wars race weekend was all about for them. And needless to say, everyone got the message as fans cheered on the family during each race. In particular, little Ryan, dressed in a Yoda costume, undoubtedly warmed a lot of hearts by walking with his sisters Ella, 6, and Olivia, 6, in the race, defying expectations of his doctors who feared he’d never walk or talk.

When it was all over, this family left Walt Disney World Resort with a galaxy full of out-of-this-world memories and the rest of us learned some valuable lessons from them about the importance of perseverance and the power of a little boy’s smile.

Watch the video below to see the Blankenship family’s inspiring journey during the Star Wars Half Marathon – The Dark Side.

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