Bert Hackenberg is no stranger to the Akron Marathon, having run in all 15 races since its inception, but this year, as a Children’s Champion, there’s more meaning behind Bert’s stride.
“I love the Akron Marathon…it’s my favorite out of the 50-plus I’ve run,” said Bert Hackenberg of Lake Township. “It’s a world class event right in our own backyard…I let becoming a Children’s Champion slip by the last 2 years, but I wasn’t letting it get by me this year. Kayla’s experience really made me want to give back…”
In 2008, Bert’s then 12-year-old daughter, Kayla, was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease that caused a severe fever, rash and swelling. After receiving care at Akron Children’s, Kayla’s condition improved but, soon after, she was rushed back to the hospital. She began experiencing seizures, chest pain, kidney malfunction and blindness due to a complication called TTP, a rare blood disorder.
Kayla began an intense treatment plan that included kidney dialysis, anti-seizure medication and plasma transfers. Once discharged, she received regular intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIG) infusion therapy at the hospital until she graduated from college.
Kayla made a full recovery, but the effects left her legally blind. While challenging, Kayla didn’t let it stop her from earning a degree from The Ohio State University (OSU), where she’s now employed in football operations with the OSU football team.
“Akron Children’s means a lot to my family,” said Hackenberg. “Kayla was a patient in the PICU for 7 weeks with some serious complications. We nearly lost her… It’s because of the doctors, nurses, staff and volunteers who cared for her, for my whole family, that allowed her to get to where she is today.”
In support, Bert is participating in the Akron Children’s Hospital Akron Marathon Race Series while raising money for the hospital as a Children’s Champion. On Sept. 29, the marquee event for the race series, Bert and his family will take to the streets of Akron like they’ve been doing for the past 15 years.
“My family tries to get to every corner of the race route so they can cheer me on the whole way,” said Hackenberg. “My sister, Michelle, participates in the half marathon so my parents come, as well as her family so I can usually hear everyone cheering for me before I ever see them.”
And despite the long road trip from Columbus, Kayla will be there, too, to show her support for her dad.
“I’m so impressed at what the hospital does every day to help kids the way they helped Kayla,” said Hackenberg. “Knowing we have a facility like Akron Children’s so close should give comfort to any family in the region. People think runners are the strong ones for the hours of training we put in. But when you see those hero kids along the racecourse or other kids in the hospital, you realize training is easy. What those kids do every day is so much more challenging than what we do and yet they do it with a smile.”