It’s hard enough to keep up with an 8-year-old boy, but when that 8 year old is Riverside resident Owen Leander, it is a joy.

The soon-to-be third-grader at Central School has appeared in this column previously, but it’s time to catch up with Owen. Most recognizable by his curly strawberry-blonde hair, he was a force to be reckoned with in the Riverside Independence Day 5K Race.

He was disappointed at not beating his personal best from last year (he clocked in at 32 minutes and 26 seconds), but he was 4 minutes ahead of his mother, which gives him bragging rights.

This was not Owen’s only race this summer. In May, he led “Team Owen” in raising $1,000 for Children’s Memorial Hospital as part of their “Move for the Kids” 5K run.

Owen’s association with the hospital goes back to before he was born, when an ultrasound detected a kidney problem. By the time he was born, Owen’s kidney still was not functioning.

Following Owen’s birth, doctors diagnosed him with TEF (trachealesophageal fistula), and at the tender age of 5 days he had surgery. He spent the first month of his life in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Children’s Memorial Hospital.

He has had five surgeries on his trachea since then and does vest therapy daily (it loosens mucus and clears his airways) for his lungs. Owen also continues going to the urology and pulmonary departments at the hospital.

It’s no surprise that Owen was a part of the move by the hospital, when it became Lurie Children’s Hospital. He did some PR work for the hospital, appearing on Channel 5 news to promote the 5K run, signing the green room wall at the TV station.

His picture was on the cover of Heroes magazine, the hospital’s publication, his name is on a mural at the new hospital and he participated in the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new hospital.

Keeping up with Owen is a family affair shared by parents, Katie and Jason, and his 3-year-old brother, Linden, and is enjoyed all who have witnessed Owen’s efforts.