Although the race may look a little different this year, the FirstEnergy Akron Marathon, Half Marathon & Team Relay still celebrates heroes of all kinds – from the runners, to the doctors, nurses and courageous Akron Children’s patients – who support the health and well-being of our community.
Since 2016, FirstEnergy’s support for the race has provided a perfect platform to showcase the strength and spirit of the hospital’s hero patients. While our heroes inspire everyone on race day, they continue to amaze us, and their families, with their resilient, positive character they carry with them well past the finish line.
Caroline Mizer – Class of 2016
When Caroline took to the sideline in 2016, she showed runners how to stay positive in the midst of a challenge. At age 3 Caroline was diagnosed with bilateral optic gliomas, tumors that formed on her optic nerves, which compromised her sight. After a long medical journey, Caroline is now 10 years in remission! She’s 16 years old and entering her junior year at Revere High School. Caroline enjoys listening to music, hanging out with friends and spending time with her rabbit, Bandit.
Elise Bonsky – Class of 2017
At 6, Elise’s sweet disposition and perseverance were shining bright on race day and continue to serve her well today as she manages symptoms of Alexander disease. Therapy has been a part of Elise’s care plan for the past 8 years, but it doesn’t keep her from doing the things she enjoys most like swimming, horseback riding, making crafts and playing with her sister, Emmersyn. She and her family are excited for a new clinical trial coming later this year that, although not a cure, is designed to stop any further degradation of her brain caused by her condition.
Elise had a pretty scary setback in early 2019 when she suffered a seizure that lasted nearly 6 hours. Due to the length of the seizure and her condition, the worry was she would lose some of the core functions she’s worked so hard to build. She had to miss some of last school year and began several intense outpatient therapies to regain all of her abilities. Dr. Vivek Veluchamy, Elise’s neurologist, continues to be instrumental in her medical journey.
Rylee Kulick – Class of 2018
Rylee’s determination earned her a spot on the NICU Wall of Hope at the hospital and on the sideline as FirstEnergy’s featured hero. Today, she’s 11 and going into 5th grade where remote learning will continue to be a new normal for the bright-eyed learner. She did some virtual tutoring this summer, as well as virtual cognitive behavioral therapy with Akron Children’s to help her prepare for the school year ahead. Rylee continues to enjoy swimming and loves to play with her siblings, FaceTime with friends and color and craft. This summer, Rylee also found a way to give back to others. For her 11th birthday, she wanted to raise $1,100 for 11 pairs of shoes to support Project Outrun. In the end, she raised over $3,000 during her birthday week! Thank you, Rylee!
Brayden McDonald – Class of 2019
When runners made their way past Brayden’s zone, they saw first-hand the relentless spirit of a child. Managing cystic fibrosis (CF) hasn’t always been easy, but Brayden has learned to advocate and manage the condition, even in the midst of a pandemic. Brayden, now 11 and entering 6th grade, made the most the COVID-19 quarantine by playing video games, especially Assassin’s Creed, and hanging out at home with the family dog, Clash. Brayden’s health has been good overall, and recently experienced a successful virtual hospital visit and drive-through swabbing appointment at Akron Children’s. CF means Brayden has to be careful to ward off infection and monitor lung function so Brayden’s family appreciates the efforts of Akron Children’s to maintain safety while still providing a positive environment for kids and families.
Click here to learn more about participating in the virtual FirstEnergy Akron Marathon, Half Marathon & Team Relay or how you can support Akron Children’s Hospital