Author Archives: Brian Stokoe

2016 Race Highlights

We are getting really excited about the upcoming race in April. Check out the highlights from our 2016 race to get pumped up! Don’t forget to register!

Perfect weather for a mud run – cold and rainy!

I ran the 2016 Fight to the Finish with a great group of friends, and we had an absolute blast!

The weather that day was perfect for a mud run – cold and rainy! One of my favorite things about the race was seeing such a great turnout of runners and volunteers coming together to support a great cause.

The race was fun, but what was most important was supporting the children of CHOI and doing our part to make sure the Children’s Hospital can continue to provide great care for kids in need. We will definitely be back again this year, ready to take on any obstacles in any weather!

2017 Bradley University Fit Fair

We were thrilled to take part in the Bradley University Fit Fair last Friday. Our stand showcased photos from previous races and encouraged participants to register.  Thanks to everyone that stopped by!

2016 Fight to the Finish Champion Family: The Glucks

cecilia in hospital bedAlexis Gluck was five months pregnant when a triple marker test, commonly used to analyze how likely an unborn baby is to have certain genetic disorders, came back as abnormal.

“Initially, they thought I was pregnant with twins. It wasn’t until we came to Peoria for an advanced ultrasound that we found out she would have Spina Bifida,” Alexis remembers.

Born six weeks early and breached, Cecilia was delivered by emergency C-section on May 13, 2005 in Iowa City. Alexis describes her birth as chaotic and terrifying.

“There was so many other medical conditions that we were unaware of. They had a team for me and a team for her. We were surrounded by so many people,” Alexis said.

cecilia and entire family- christmas photoDiagnosed with Spina Bifida Cystica (Myelomeningocele), the worst form of the condition; Cecilia was only an hour old when she went through her first surgery. The most immediate threat was the opening on her back which exposed her spinal cord and nerves to the outside world – allowing them to dangle from her fragile little body.   Other secondary complexities threatened Cecilia’s health as well. A hole in her heart, or Ventricular Septal Defect (VSD) was detected and her left knee was turned completely backwards leaving her legs positioned across her chest.

Overwhelmed and scared, Alexis took Cecilia home wearing a pair of leg casts that she wore for the first six months of her life. It was only two weeks later that Alexis began to notice the telltale symptoms of hydrocephalus, an accumulation of spinal fluid in the brain. This was the beginning of their struggle with what is now one of the most nuanced complications associated with Cecilia’s Spina Bifida. To date Cecilia has received 13 shunts to drain off the excess fluid accumulating in her brain; each requiring a surgical procedure and sometimes lengthy hospital stay.

cecilia in chairWhen Cecilia was two Alexis made the decision to bring her to Children’s Hospital of Illinois exclusively. It was there that they began to pick Cecilia’s team of dedicated caregivers. Now Cecilia regularly sees a neurologist, urologist, endocrinologist, surgeon, orthopedic specialist, gastroenterologist and a dentist; all sharing the same goal – to make sure she has the healthiest and happiest life possible.

What would break down many mothers has seemingly strengthened Alexis’ resolve, and when you meet them both it’s easy to see where Cecilia gets her disposition. She is cheerful and calm just like her mother who eloquently shares their story. Their soft spoken nature is paired with a resilient spirit – an unexpected combination that has gotten them through so much.

Today as a 10 year old, Cecilia has gone through a total of 42 surgeries; battling a litany of medical problems all arising from her original diagnosis. She copes by giving back.

cecilia cheerleading

Whether it’s a Girl Scout cookie rally, creating treasure chests full of toys or passing out hand crafted goodie bags – they are always looking for ways to comfort other children at the hospital.

“Everyone who comes in makes her feel special and we want to pay it back – our nurses and physicians grow a bond with her and we want to help in the ways that we can,” Alexis lovingly explains.

Donning ear to ear smiles, their kindness is contagious and as the 2016 Fight to the Finish Miracle Family we look to Cecilia and her mother Alexis as shining examples of strength, hope and philanthropy.

Video

Danielle Livengood (FTTF Organizer) – Living Well Interview

The Fight to the Finish organizer, Danielle Livengood, participated in an interview on “Living Well” to speak about this year’s race. Check out this video to see the interview and clips of various obstacles from last year’s race.

RLI: Presenting Sponsor & Former Team Champions

RLI_team_photo_FTTFRLI has a long history of supporting the Children’s Hospital and are proud to be sponsors for the Fight to the Finish race. Not only do we sponsor it but employees compete each year. One team from RLI has won the team competition the past two years and we hope for a three-peat this year! It is a fun, unique race that employees have really enjoyed and, of course, is for a great cause.

2015 Fight to the Finish Champion Family: The Allens

AllensJohn and Nicole Allen, along with their soon-to-be two year old daughter Madelyn are this year’s Fight to the Finish Champion family! Fight to the Finish—an extreme 5k race, puts runners face to face with the elements. On the journey, they crawl through mud, wade through water, and even climb up rocky terrain. It’s a true fight to the finish, that’s making a big difference in the future of children’s health.

Allen family understands the cause first hand. This is their Children’s Hospital of Illinois story:

2013 was a roller coaster year for John and Nicole Allen. That year, Nicole gave birth to their daughter Madelyn—who is becoming more active and animated each day. In the summer of 2013, it was a different story.

“You’re Going to Be Parents!”

I was told I was the triple threat pregnancy,” Nicole reflects. “I’m in my mid-thirties, miraculously got pregnant using IVF, and was carrying twins.” For the past few years, John and Nicole had been trying to have a baby. “I cried when I got the news,” she smiles. “When they told me we were having twins…it was a double blessing and we were even more excited. A boy and a girl, it was perfect.”

Unexpected Hurdles: At 19 weeks, Nicole went in for a routine sonogram where Doctor Yolanda Renfroe discovered her cervix had become so thin she risked giving birth early. “The babies wouldn’t make it,” she explained. “Doctor Renfore put me on immediate bed rest in the hospital to help prevent that from happening. She was amazing to me and my family.”

Nicole went into labor at 24 weeks. In just three minutes, her daughter Madelyn was born on May 20th. Doctors rushed the fragile one pound seven ounce baby to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Children’s Hospital of Illinois. They managed to keep Nicole’s son Jake inside her for three more days before his May 23rd birthday. Jake arrived via cesarean section weighing one pound eleven ounces.

Moving Forward: “I was able to see both of my babies the next day,” said Nicole. “Our neonatologist, Doctor James Hocker was wonderful. He knew how much we wanted these babies and cried alongside us when he was preparing us for what our children’s future could be after arriving one day after viability” The Allen’s daughter, Madelyn, slowly continued making progress, which is rare for a baby born at that gestational age, but baby Jake’s health began to decline. “We were told a week after he was born that he had suffered from Grade IV bilateral brain bleeds, the most serious and critical stage of IVH, which can be common in extreme premature babies or “micro-preemies” as they are called,” Nicole explained. “Dr. Hocker was straightforward with us. He said there were no guarantees about his future…we just had to wait.” Jake’s health continued to digress. “Fluid from his spinal cord began building up inside his head…we were scared and helpless,” said Nicole. Jake passed away in her arms June 16th, just three weeks after his birthday.

Madelyn somehow overcame every obstacle that was put in front of her in the 83 days before coming home. She battled microcephaly, PDA in her heart, renal failure, chronic lung disease, blood transfusions, retinopathy, extreme low birth weight, and learning how to eat and breathe on her own. And, she amazingly went home for the first time with her parents, 4 weeks before her original due date, which was September 8th. Madelyn continues to amaze her doctors with her development at every evaluation and check-up. “She’s the strongest person I know,” said Nicole.

Giving Back: The Allen’s spent 3 months at Children’s Hospital of Illinois NICU where Nicole became familiar with the campus, befriended the nurses, and met new mothers just like her. That’s why Nicole and John remain active at Children’s Hospital. They volunteer, are parent mentors for current NICU families, and attend fundraising events like The Drive For Miracles Radiothon, Small Wonders Miracle Walk where Nicole is a committee member, and Fight to the Finish.

“If other families can find comfort from our family’s story, then Jake’s memory and Madelyn’s miracle will continue to live on, as they do with us every day,” said Nicole.

The “Motley Crew” Fight To The Finish Experience

 

group2Our experience with Fight to the Finish last year was unbelievable. It was tough and it was fun! We were a group of 5 women who had never run this race before and together created Motley Crew! We even made our own team shirts and wore temporary tattoos.

But what really made Fight to the Finish so fun was really the cause we were running for: The Children’s Hospital of Illinois. We wanted to encourage these children as they fight their own obstacles.