There is a story to share about each of the 19,000 runners and walkers participating in this year’s Nationwide Children’s Hospital Columbus Marathon and ½ Marathon. Many have overcome physical and emotional challenges to be part of this year’s event. While we unfortunately can’t share every story, we want to spotlight this year’s Spirit Award winners. The Spirit Award is awarded annually to ten individuals who demonstrate perseverance and dedication. During the weeks leading up to this year’s Marathon and ½ Marathon, we will be sharing their stories of inspiration and spirit. Congratulations to all of this year’s honorees!
Cristina Saint-Blancard, Plantation, FL
While volunteering and working on her graduate research in the NICU at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, Cristina acquired an infection that lodged through her ears and quickly spread to her brain, leaving her basically deaf and almost killing her. Cristina, who along with hearing challenges, suffers from asthma and meniere’s (a disorder of the inner ear that causes spontaneous episodes of vertigo, along with fluctuating hearing loss, ringing in the ear and sometimes a feeling of ear fullness or pressure). Cristina has lost over 170 pounds through courage and positive attitude and living life as a survivor not a victim, and is excited to complete her first half marathon with her “angel”, service dog, Tatiana, back in Columbus to benefit of the hospital where “it all started.” “There are no obstacles if you’re willing to work hard to overcome them” is Cristina’s motto.
Andrew Leatherman, Dublin, OH
Andy has cystic fibrosis and was not expected to live past age 18. Now, at age 36, Andy will participate in his second 1/2 marathon on Oct. 18. Andy has been a patient at Nationwide Children’s Hospital since birth. After losing his brother Peter at age 26 from cystic fibrosis and developing type II diabetes from disease progression, Andy was inspired by his girlfriend to begin running. Andy embodies a “no excuses” mantra that inspires others. According to one of the four Spirit Award nominations submitted on Andy’s behalf, “If he can overcome work/health/life obstacles to still conquer his goals, while dealing with Cystic Fibrosis, then I certainly can as well!” Andrew is grateful to Nationwide Children’s Hospital for everything they’ve done for him, and for Peter when he was alive and is excited to show his support and encouraging others along the way
Shanel Mees, Cincinnati, OH
Psoriatic arthritis is a chronic arthritis. That typically affects the large joints, especially those of the lower extremities, distal joints of the fingers and toes, and also can affect the back and sacroiliac joints of the pelvis. Shanel is not letting a diagnosis of Psoriatic Arthritis prevent her from running her first full marathon this year. Despite joint pain, stiffness and swelling caused by the autoimmune condition, Shanel has pushed herself to increase her running pace of 8:15-8:30 mile (before she was diagnosed) to 7:20-7:30 mile. Shanel will run to raise money for the National Psoriasis Foundation and prove that determination is stronger than any condition.