Festival of Miles | ATHLETE IN NEED
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ATHLETE IN NEED

The Festival of Miles began in 2008 as a way to raise money for Brigette Schutzman, a standout runner at Saint Louis University who had been badly injured in a car accident earlier that year. Giving back to a local athlete in need has remained a part of the FOM Mission ever since. Since 2008, we have raised more than $50,000!

2017: Cassie Gorecki

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The 2017 Athlete in Need is Cassie Gorecki. Cassie is a St. Louis Public Schools Physical Education teacher who coached Girls on the Run for many years. Cassie played field hockey and soccer at Cor Jesu Academy and went on to play field hockey on scholarship in college. Cassie and her husband Adam were ecstatic last fall to find out their sports-loving family would be expanded. However, when “Baby G” was 21 weeks, Cassie was diagnosed with a malignant tumor, Chondrosarcoma, on her spine and back. The tumor was the size of a football. They put off surgery for the safety of the baby, and at 32 weeks Baby Gus was born. He spent 49 days in the Special Care Unit at Barnes Hospital, while Cassie underwent a grueling 10 hour surgery. Unfortunately, Cassie is now suffering paralysis from the waist down. She has a long road ahead of physical and occupational therapy, as well as 7 weeks of radiation as a preventative measure.

Gus came home with Adam on May 3, and they visit Cassie every day at the skilled nursing facility. “She’s fighting,” her husband Adam said. And just last week she had some voluntary leg movement; she was able to move each foot when the doctors held her knees and told her to kick a ball. Truly, Cassie exemplifies what it means to be a champion.

Meet Cassie here: https://www.teamgorecki.com/

2016: Triston Walls

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This year’s athlete in need is four-year-old Triston Walls. While he may not be an athlete in the traditional sense, he is most certainly a champion. Born on April 23, 2012 with 4 holes in his heart–2 ASD’s (holes in the walls between the top of the heart) and 2 VSD’s (holes in the walls between the bottom of the heart)–Triston went into heart failure at just one month old. At 7 months old he had open heart surgery. A month-and-a-half later we was diagnosed with Pulmonary Vein Stenosis and Pulmonary Hypertension. Triston and his family live in nearby Ste. Genevieve, Mo. and hope to make it to Festival of Miles where Triston’s big brother will run the Kids Mile! You can watch more on Triston HERE.

2015: Brian Ott

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The 2015 FOM Athlete in Need was 16-year-old Brian Ott from Fort Zumwalt West High School in O’Fallon, Mo. At the time of the meet Brian had been battling cancer of the brain and spinal cord since he was three years old. A true fighter, Brian most certainly the athlete in need description. He played sports his whole life including hockey for the Gateway Locomotives, a special needs team. He also helped out at FZW as a manager on the school’s football and basketball teams. His mother Erin told us after the meet that the Ott family was able to use the FOM funds to send Brian on “away” trips with his hockey team, something he had been looking forward to for a long time.

2014: Christopher Shaw

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Christopher ran high school cross country and track at Edwardsville (IL) HS. He signed to run in college at Milligan College in TN, but shortly thereafter was diagnosed with Cancer. He had to go through all the nasty stuff that we all
know cancer patients have to go through- intense chemo, losing his hair, tons of hospital visits, etc. At the time of FOM 2014 he was in the maintenance stage of treatment (no more intense chemo) but continued “regular” chemo through March of 2015.

 

When his mother Lindsay told Christopher he was nominated this is what he had to say, “I told Christopher that he had been nominated for the 2014 Athlete In Need and he was incredibly humbled. He has always had the attitude that ‘there are many people worse off than me’.”

2013: Brad Eastman

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Brad was the FOM Board’s choice for the 2013 Athlete in Need in part because he was someone who had spent much of his adult life helping other runners himself. A Girls on the Run volunteer extraordinaire, Brad believed in the self-esteem producing powers of running and tried to spread his love for the sport to all, especially to young people. He and his wife Sarah had a beautiful 1-year-old daughter and he was a healthy guy in his early 30 when he noticed some strange symptoms while training for a marathon early in 2013. It was after Brad ran a PR in that marathon that he was diagnosed with a baseball sized brain tumor in his right temporal lobe. Brad underwent a long and technically challenging surgery in April to remove the brain tumor.

 

The surgery went well and the doctors were able to remove 95% of the tumor but it was determined to be cancerous and he faced a long rehab to get back to his normal, running self. By the time FOM rolled around Brad was certainly feeling better. He even helped hand out finisher ribbons after the GO! St. Louis Healthy Kids Mile!

2012: Chris Lister

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Chris, a graduate of Francis Howell North, was today’s typical runner. He had found running as a great way to stay fit and challenge himself. At just 25 years old, while many his age were steadily declining in fitness, he was participating in local races and enjoying every minute of it.

 

In January of 2012, while racing a 10 miler, Chris was struck by a motorist and suffered severe injuries. The Lister family was overwhelmed by the support of the entire Saint Louis running community in the wake of Chris’ accident. They attended the Festival of Miles where Chris’ dad Rick spoke on his behalf.

2009-2011: Mike Rathmann

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In the summer after the inaugural Festival of Miles, Mike and his buddies were horsing around like 18-year-olds do, just weeks after high school graduation from Saint Louis U. High. The all-state high jumper fell awkwardly and broke his back, paralyzed from the chest down. Mike’s family was devastated and they were in desperate need of help. Mike’s father had trouble communicating after a bout with throat cancer and his mother was battling breast cancer. It just didn’t seem fair for one family to have to deal with so much pain.

 

In the three years that the Festival of Miles benefited Mike and his family we raised more than $15,000, every penny of which was sorely needed and went toward Mike’s rehab as well as his community college tuition. Mike’s father has since passed away but his mother has beaten cancer more than once and is still Mike’s biggest fan. His friends have created MilesforMike, to raise money for Mike’s continued rehab and education.

2008: Brigette Schutzman

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Brigette was the reason for the very first Festival of Miles. She was a standout middle distance runner for Saint Louis University who excelled on and off the track. She and her friends were in a terrible car accident on New Year’s Eve 2007, the result of icy highway roads. Doctors gave Brigette little chance to live that first night.

 

After a stint in a coma, Brigette awoke to serious brain damage and a long road to recovery. Just four months later Brigette had already progressed to the point that she was able to attend the Festival of Miles and even took a few very inspirational steps in front of the crowd to show off her progress. FOM raised $8,000 for the Schutzman’s that evening, money that went directly to Brigette’s rehab.

 

Today, Brigette is back in her home state of Indiana where she recently graduated from IUPUI. Her next step is nursing school and she’s even interested in someday working at a rehab facility in Colorado for victims of accidents similar to hers.