As the FirstEnergy Akron Marathon, Half Marathon and Team Relay gets ready to kick off its virtual marathon, Akron Children’s is placing a spotlight on past heroes who have helped bring spirit and inspiration to the race route since “hero zones” debuted at the race in 2016.
Hero zones are a welcomed feature along the race route where runners can engage with and gain inspiration from Akron Children’s patients. The zones are sponsored by area organizations to show support for the community and provide a space for our heroes to shine. The Akron Children’s Women’s Board has hosted numerous heroes at their zone over the years, and we’re proud to report the heroes continue to thrive and inspire others as friends, students and, of course, as Akron Children’s patients.
Bekah and Sam Plant – Class of 2016
At 4, Bekah took to the sidelines to show runners what determination looked like. She had been a patient with the hospital since she was born prematurely with 2 holes in her heart and, later, to monitor her eye condition, Duane Syndrome. Bekah, now 8, is a healthy, active third grader. To make sure she’s on track and feeling her best, she checks in with Drs. VandeKappelle, Jr. for her heart and Lawhon for her eyes. She still loves reading, dancing and creating, and has a new love for everything related to space and rockets. Although remote learning hasn’t been as much fun as being in school with friends or participating in softball, dance and church, Bekah understands it’s important to make sacrifices to help keep others safe.
Bekah’s little brother, Sam, brought a big dose of energy to race goers that he still carries with him today. At age 2, Sam had been diagnosed with food allergies less than a year before. Today, he’s outgrown some of them, but is still allergic to most tree nuts, peanuts and a variety of environmental things including all furry pets. While he’s been learning to live with his allergies and is growing more independent, Sam still visits Dr. Karnani every few months to keep up with his asthma and remaining allergies. He also sees Dianne Kulasa-Luke in the neurology for migraine headaches, which has been a bit of a struggle for a kiddo who doesn’t like to slow down. Sam is going into first grade this fall and enjoys participating in t-ball, acro classes and church, as well as exploring the outdoors, reading and making Lego creations.
The brother and sister dynamo, who now have a little sister on their team, have continued the tradition of cheering on runners along the race route each year, with their favorite runners being their daddy and Uncle Andy.
Maddux Maple – Class of 2017
Maddux wore his UFC championship belt as a badge of honor at the race in 2017. His 3.5 year battle with acute lymphocyctic leukemia served as inspiration for UFC fighter, Cody Garbrandt, who gave his championship title belt to Maddux as a reminder that hard work pays off. Maddux’s strength and courage inspired runners then and continues to inspire others today.
Maritza Harper – Class of 2018
As a kidney transplant patient, Maritza served as a shining example of how good things come to those who persevere. For 8 months, she underwent dialysis, adhered to a strict diet and took daily medications while she waited for a match. After her transplant, she underwent anti-rejection treatments to help her body accept her new kidney. Now, more than 5 years since the transplant, Maritza continues to amaze others with her beautiful smile and strong spirit.
Cory and Katie Michalec – Class of 2019
We first introduced the resilient and active twins to runners at last year’s race. Today, they continue to thrive and are now juniors at Tallmadge High School.
Cory, who was born at 26 weeks and diagnosed with cerebral palsy, continues to work hard in therapy, sports and academics to achieve his goals. Due to concerns with COVID-19, Cory moved to private therapy sessions that he’s taken ownership of and thoroughly enjoys doing. He’s anxious for sports to open back up but, in the meantime, he loves playing Xbox, doing home workouts and talking with friends.
Katie, also born prematurely, had a recent scare this past February in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Although she received her annual flu shot, a strand of influenza B not covered in the shot caused a medical emergency. As her body tried to fight off the infection, her fevers caused her to seize. She was transported to Akron Children’s and placed in the PICU as concern grew she wouldn’t make it through. Katie’s strength and strong will helped her fight off the illness and she’s been seizure-free for more than 6 months. Katie, with the help of her neurologist, Ian Rossman, MD, PhD, is doing everything possible to keep the scary situation from happening again. This summer, Katie was able to get back to doing the things she enjoys, including workouts with the Tallmadge girls’ basketball team and becoming a member of the school’s varsity girls’ golf team. She loves being outside and is also on track to get her driver’s license this fall!
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.