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Brittany McDonnell and Elizabeth Guertin

Brittany McDonnell and Elizabeth Guertin, who have been matched 1 year share their thoughts about the Patient-Runner Connection program.

Christina, you reached out to us after last year’s marathon because your daughter, Elizabeth, asked if someone would run the marathon in her honor this year. What was it like for you and your family to have Brittany run this year’s marathon in Elizabeth’s honor?

Christina: Last year Elizabeth and I were watching the marathon and there was a story about a little boy who was born with Biliary Atresia and the story was about his patient match and how they had been together for eleven years. Elizabeth turned to me and said “that is what I have, what is a patient match?” I explained to her what the patient match program is and she said, “I want to do that!” I said, “We can next year.” When the email came about the program this year I told Elizabeth Stemporzewski, the Program Manager, that we would love to be matched up for this year’s marathon. Brittany and I began emailing one another and started our amazing three month journey while Brittany was out there training and fundraising.

Brittany, this was your first marathon. How did having Elizabeth as your patient match enhance your experience?

Brittany: Having Elizabeth as my patient match was a wonderful and inspiring experience. Running in memory of my grandfather was one boost but waking up on those frigid mornings and thinking of her little face and all she still has to learn and do made me bolt out of bed. When the day came to meet her and her family, it really was an overwhelming moment for me. Seeing this little girl, who was full of life and energy, had me at a standstill. It was really then that I realized I'm running for her, and I'll raise as much as I can in her honor so she can continue to be full of life. Her mother, Christina, was also the same way; knowing what they've been through, you would never know as an outsider. After going to the spin-a-thon she held, I actually downloaded country music that I had heard Christina playing and put it on my running list, so Elizabeth was motivating me every step of the way! I couldn't imagine running for anyone else, I feel like we became family.

Your family not only helped to support Brittany emotionally throughout the season, but you raised over $2,000 through fundraisers on Brittany’s behalf. What motivated you to get so involved in Brittany’s fundraising and the Patient-Runner Connection program?

Christina: I teach spin at a gym and thought, “I know what I can do to help! I will do a spin-a-thon to help her reach her goals.” I mentioned this to Brittany and she was very excited, so much so, that she wanted to come and be a part of the spin-a-thon. My husband and I raised money from family, friends and people we work with. I can’t even tell you how generous everyone was. As I was planning the spin-a-thon, I thought about how we could involve Elizabeth. Elizabeth is involved with Irish step and I knew her teacher would help put together a little dance that they could perform at the fundraiser. It was wonderful to watch her with her friends, so full of life, dancing and performing for everyone. Brittany came and we all met for the first time. I knew from all of our emails how special she was, but meeting her, and watching her watch Elizabeth dance and spin along side of me, really showed how amazing she was. I fell in love with this amazing young lady who had a purpose and goal, not only to do this marathon in honor of her grandfather, but she was running for Elizabeth’s future and the future of so many who have a liver disease.

We joined Brittany at the marathon brunch two days before the marathon; Elizabeth and her sister, Kathryn, were so excited to enjoy this time with Brittany. They made signs, asked a lot of questions, trying to get to know Brittany, and sat and listened to every speaker and cheered very loudly when we found out that Brittany was one of the top ten fundraisers for the foundation. When the day of the marathon came, we couldn’t wait to see Brittany run by. We went into Boston early in the morning, went to a Red Sox game, and waited in the crowds until we saw her. She came right up to us and we all hugged, took pictures and cried with so much joy. Brittany, I can’t tell you how proud we are of you and how important you are to us. We’re so glad that Elizabeth inspired you and got you through those 26.2 miles and we’re even happier that you have become a friend and a big part of our family. We want you again next year…. We love you!!!!

Looking back on your first marathon, as one of the Run for Research team’s top fundraisers, what advice might you have for people considering getting involved in the Patient-Runner Connection in the future?

Brittany: As far as advice for people who are interested in this program I would absolutely suggest doing so first of all. It was just a rewarding experience to just be matched up! I honestly didn't want Christina to feel any pressure in raising money for me, I knew I could raise the minimum, but when she first reached out to me she had already had a plan in place for a spin-a-thon, which was just wonderful! She went above and beyond my wildest dreams and helped me raise over $2,000. I honestly had no words to express my gratitude. But I think reaching out to one another and keeping in touch through out the process is huge! Christina and I have every intention of keeping in touch so I can go to Elizabeth's dancing and sports games as well as her other daughter Kathryn! My mom is also going to be joining me as well to visit them for this too sometimes! Communication, understanding that being a part of this program isn't just about being a part of it, it's about creating a new relationship, taking it to another level, and inspiring one another!

Page updated: June 2nd, 2014