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Akron Children's "hero" patients inspire Akron Marathon runners

08-22-2017 (Akron, Mahoning Valley, Ohio )

Bring together thousands of committed runners and 14 hero patients who have overcome medical adversity and you can only imagine the cheers, smiles, high fives, power boosts, and maybe even tears of mutual respect and inspiration along the famed Blue Line for ‘Marathon Day” - always a day of celebration – in Akron, Ohio.   

This is the second year for Akron Children’s Hospital’s affiliation with the Akron Marathon and its role as the title beneficiary of the Akron Children’s Hospital Akron Marathon Race Series, culminating in the marquee event – the FirstEnergy Akron Marathon, Half Marathon and Team Relay on Sept. 23. 

Once again, Akron Children’s patients will be featured in “hero zones” along the 26.2 mile route.

  • Matt Tullis, 41, of Sandy Hook, Conn. (formerly of Ashland, Ohio), will be the official race starter and will go on to run the full marathon. An avid runner, Tullis is a survivor of childhood cancer who says he runs to honor the friends he met during treatment at Akron Children’s decades ago. 

“You can’t survive a children’s cancer ward and not remember the kids you knew who didn’t make it – all of them ghosts, wisps of light running beside me mile after mile,” Tullis has written. His memoir as a childhood cancer survivor, entitled, Running with Ghosts, will publish Sept. 1.

Current patients, decked in superhero capes and offering hand touch “power” boosts to the runners making their way to the finish line, are:

  • Elise Bonsky, 6, of Copley. Sweet, fun loving Bonsky follows a strict diet and medication plan and puts in endless hours of therapy to manage symptoms of Alexander disease, a rare, non-curable disorder of the nervous system. Look for her at High and Bowery Streets (Starting line, as well as mile marker 12). Her hero nickname is “Super E, Just Being Me” and her hero zone is sponsored by FirstEnergy.


  • Abby Mogen, 6, of Cuyahoga Falls, has undergone several surgeries and hours of therapy to correct her cleft lip and palate. But her new smile is the perfect accessory for school or playing dress up in her vast selection of princess dresses. Mogen will be at mile 2.5 on Cuyahoga Falls Avenue. Her hero nickname is “Elsa” and her hero zone is sponsored by Buckingham Doolittle & Burroughs.


  • Josie Greco, 9, of Hillsville, Pa. Born at 29 weeks, Greco suffered extensive brain and kidney damage during a traumatic delivery. Her winning spirt and strength have gotten her through numerous surgeries and ongoing therapies to control the challenges of cerebral palsy. Greco will cheer on runners at mile marker 4.85 on Olive Street. Her hero nickname is “Super Jos” and her hero zone is presented by LifeBanc and sponsored by Marcus Thomas LLC.


  • Elijah Harper, 9, of Akron. An enthusiastic gymnast, Harper was diagnosed with medulloblastoma, a type of brain tumor, which required emergency neurosurgery, 6 weeks of intense radiation and a year of chemotherapy. He has worked hard to get back to what he loves most – tumbling. Harper will be featured at mile 6.25 on Broadway Street. His hero nickname is “Going for the Gold” and his hero zone is sponsored by Kent State University.


  • Spencer Beal, 8, of Dover. Born with achondroplasia, a form of dwarfism, Beal underwent more than ten surgeries in six years, including those to correct the bowing of his legs and curvature of his spine. Through it all, Beal has maintained his positive spirit and unwavering smile. Look for him at mile 7 on Exchange Street. His hero nickname is “Rocky” and his hero zone is sponsored by The University of Akron.


  • Tanner Ross, age 12, of Stow. Born with neurofibromatosis, a genetic disorder, Ross has undergone numerous spine surgeries to relieve pain and the severe scoliosis caused by the disorder. He stays positive with the support of his family and Akron Children’s Doggie Brigade™, as well as helping others as a member of the hospital’s teen advisory group. Ross will be at mile 9 on Brown Street near Garfield High School. His hero nickname is “Titanium Tanner” and his hero zone is sponsored by Stark State College Akron and Vorys Sater, Seymour & Pease.


  • Ethan Herald, 14, of Canal Fulton. As a child, Herald knew some words were harder to get out than others. It wasn’t until he was diagnosed with Tourette syndrome in middle school that he learned new ways to say what he wanted to say, gaining confidence in school and among peers. His hero nickname is “Mega T” and his hero zone will be at mile 9.8 at Firestone and Main streets. The zone is sponsored by KeyBank.


  • Elizabeth Elder, 13, of Canfield. Through sheer will and determination, Elder is proof anything is possible when you work hard at it. Born with permanent brain damage, she has put in countless hours of therapy and undergone extensive surgeries to gain the strength to walk, talk and participate in school and sports. Elder’s hero nickname is “Spitfire Spinner” and she will be at mile marker 11 on Main Street. Her hero zone is sponsored by Crystal Clinic Orthopedic Center.





  • Chaniya Jackson, age 12, of Akron. Born with Down syndrome, Jackson has never let her condition get in the way of learning new things. With patience, the right teachers, and sleep medicine specialists, she has found the perfect rhythm to school and life. Jackson’s hero nickname is “Sleeping Beauty” and she will be featured at mile marker 10.85 on Broadway Street. Her zone is sponsored by the Summit County Developmental Disabilities Board.


  • Maddux Maple, 11, of Uhrichsville. Diagnosed with acute lymphocytic leukemia at age 5, Maple began a nearly four-year chemotherapy treatment when he should have been starting kindergarten. His courage and determination has inspired his whole community. Maple’s hero nickname is “Madd Dog” and he will be cheering on runners at mile marker 17.5 on Hawkins Avenue near Thurmont Road. His zone is sponsored by the Women’s Board of Akron Children’s Hospital.



  • Jack Lehman, 16, of Hudson. During his sophomore year, Lehman was diagnosed with acute disseminated encephalomyelitis, a rare autoimmune disease that nearly took his life. Through hours of rehab and with incredible determination, he learned to breathe, eat and walk again. Lehman’s hero nickname is “Under Dog” and he will be at mile marker 21.4 on Hawkins Avenue near Market Street. His hero zone is sponsored by Great Clips of Hudson and Akron.


  • Sophia and Bella Bevilacqua, 10, of Akron. Sophia, who was born premature, lives life to the fullest despite the challenges imposed by cerebral palsy. Meanwhile, twin Bella follows a healthy lifestyle plan to combat a low immune system. With hero nicknames “Flash” and “Sonic,” the girls will be cheering runners to the finish line at mile marker 25.5 on Main Street. Their hero zone is sponsored by Legacy Strategic Asset Management and Oswald Companies.

For more information about these hero patients, including a short video of each, go to Runners can also find information about raising money for Akron Children’s as a Children’s Champion.

Registration is still open for the FirstEnergy Marathon, Half Marathon and Team Relay on Sept. 23 and volunteers are always needed. For more information, go to

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