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Take a moment and think about the person
who has influenced your life.
Who made you greater? Who made you wiser? Who made you a better you? Was it your parent, grandparent, teacher, coach or another community member? It's that person who enables us to see beyond our neighborhoods and beyond ourselves to reach goals we never had conceived.
Maria Paredes Fernandez
Mi mama y papá made me gr8!
It wouldn’t be possible for me to be in the position that I am now in life if it weren’t for the sacrifices that my parents made.
As a first generation Hispanic American living on the "wrong side of the tracks," there could have been many occasions where I could have swayed off the path. However, my thoughts would always bring me back to the purpose of my parents' struggle and I would realign.
We weren't a wealthy family by any means -- which would mean that in order to provide me with a good education, my parents had to work hard and long hours. This meant that I could easily go for days without seeing them as they would come home long after I had fallen asleep. Or I would get up and go to school while they rested.
Everything they earned was for my brother and I and it is thanks to their sacrifice that I was able to go to college and also attend post-graduate studies. Thanks to them, I am a tenacious and driven individual that is also compassionate and caring of others. They have been excellent role models in my life and I wouldn’t have been able to get this far without them.
Before Jessica met Erik Weismann, she was a D and F student known for throwing desks at her peers. Now she's on the honor roll and other students regard her as an athlete.
Erik Weismann's first career was running his own software company, a job he did for ten years. But he always had an interest in urban education, and on advice from his aunt, went back to school to be a teacher.
Erik met Jessica while substitute-teaching during her freshman year, and tried to start talking to her after he noticed her and a peer yelling at each other. When she was resistant to talking, Erik asked her to join the school's fitness club, which she eventually did.
One of the things that motivated Erik to teach was the observation that many kids are stunted; without structure and guidance in their lives, they don't know how to think, much less how to exercise. He believes that is one of the benefits of training to run—it gives structure to a life that, in Jessica's case, was chaotic. It allowed her to get order and empowered her to take charge of her life.
Now, Jessica is singing at her school, running half-marathons, and making the honor roll. Erik believes that training as a distance runner alongside him changed the course of her life. Since training with Erik, Jessica has made a pact to never try drugs and to try to stay on honor roll. Her goals for the future are to go to college and then to buy a house. But the impact Erik has had is not a one-way street—Erik said that Jessica has also changed him. In a school that ranked worst in its district last year and where kids don't get often a chance to succeed, Jessica has shown Erik that he can make a difference by showing kids that they can be happy.
Erik believes that one of the best things you can provide a child is consistency. He said, "I love the kids. If there's a conflict between a kid and a teacher, I will always side with the kid, because you have to be there for them. If they let you down one day, then tell them the next day, 'let's succeed now.'
Christina DeMatteo Luckenbill
I lost my mentor about 3 months ago. He was my father. He was a 6th grade teacher in the Boyertown School District for about 33 years. Dad was very involved with his students both as a teacher and a mentor, and was active with intramural basketball, coaching baseball, and the relay team and involved with the D.A.R.E program at the school.
Throughout his life, he took his time with students that needed the most support and guidance. When he passed away suddenly, there was a tremendous outpouring from so many of his students — both recent and some in their 40’s who had him in school — who shared stories of how he affected their life in so many ways.
I decided a long time ago to be a nurse because I was taught at a young age to always be there for people that are less fortunate. My father would always say “Do unto others, Chris." His proudest day was the day I graduated from nursing school, and he always told me he could have never seen me in a better profession. And because of him, I have learned that it doesn’t matter how much you own or the amount of money you have, but how you can change the life of another person just by being kind, taking time for them and guiding them in a positive, non-judgmental way. That’s what makes a mentor... and my father was mine. I will try to continue to emulate him as long as I live.
I am running to honor and remember my grandmother, Ruth Nowicki. The Lord took her home on January 18th, 2011, but forever her influence will remain with me.
My grandmother's life was dedicated to two things, her faith and her family. She was married for 66 years, and in that time her family grew to 10 children, 23 grandchildren and 29 great-grandchildren. I was blessed to be one of her many granddaughters. With spouses, my family totals over 80 people. Despite our large size, my grandmother always found time for each of us.
When walking into her home, we were greeted with a warm welcome and a big smile. She had the natural ability of incorporating laughter into every conversation. It made hearing her wisdom or simply spending time with her a pleasure. Family was her priority and, as a result, she and my grandfather raised a large family who loves and supports one another.
She was a wonderful example of how to approach life. She always had a kind word to say and encouraged us to speak kindly to and about others. She taught by example to find joy and humor in all situations. And, she inspired us to look to faith when approaching difficult problems or simply giving thanks for our many blessings.
To express in a few paragraphs the influence that my grandmother had on my life is almost an insurmountable task. Her beautiful spirit and presence is missed by each of us daily. To celebrate her, some of us will gather at Gener8tion Run to run, walk, laugh and reminisce while paying tribute to the remarkable person I had the great fortune to call my grandmother.
Michael Goonewardene PhD, MD
Dr. Donna Marie Murasko made me gr8!
Dr. Donna Marie Murasko is a special mentor in my life. When we first met, she was the head of a busy Immunology research lab, and the instructor for a night class I was taking. I was so impressed with her passion for teaching and her work that I applied for, and was hired as, her Lab Technician. She encouraged me, and gave positive re-enforcement to develop the potential which she saw in me. She challenged me to do more with my work, my education, and my life. She made me believe in myself and my abilities. She encouraged me to continue my studies. When I told her I was planning to do a part-time Master’s Degree, she convinced me I had the ability to do a Doctorate.
She has the important qualities of true mentors. She is excited about her work, and always strives for excellence. She leads by example, and demonstrated the importance of hard work, attention to detail, and having an inquisitive mind. She was technically skilled, and taught me by working in the lab along side of me and all the others in her lab. She taught me writing skills, critical analysis of literature, and scientific curiosity; all of which still serve me to this day. She demanded the same things from herself that she expected of me as her employee, and as her graduate student. The foundation of the rest of my professional success is a direct result of her powerful influence in my life when I was a young adult.
Although I have come across several educators who have influenced my life, no one stands out as clearly as my undergraduate mentor, Alison Krufka. When I first met Dr. K, I was just beginning the arduous process of deciding what to do with my life and how to make it happen.
She reminded me of a hummingbird. She was always walking fast, talking fast, and thinking fast. “Every second counts, Mary,” she told me once, a few months after I joined her research lab. She was standing on top of the lab bench at the time, a fairly regular occurrence, retrieving a box of petri dishes from the top shelf. One of the first things I learned from Dr. K is that sometimes, in the lab and in life, it is necessary to climb on benches and reach for what you want.
Until Dr. Krufka, I never had anyone in my life that urged me to break out of my comfort zone. I come from a family of people who have never strayed out of southern New Jersey, and expected me to put down permanent roots here as well. Dr. K taught me the value of adventure and exploration. She constantly told me to get out and see new places, because you can always come back. Without her encouragement, I would never have had the courage to pursue summer internships and graduate schools outside of my home state.
Now, three years later, I’m ready to graduate from Rowan University. I’ve seen a little bit more of this country thanks to a summer internship in upstate New York and a graduate school interview in Colorado. I walk a little faster, and I can frequently be found climbing on top of lab benches to get what I want.
IIn July, 2006, Drs Bose and Biswala (posing next to me in this 2008 photo), my "heroes", performed my first hip surgery at Apollo Hospital, in Chennai, India. In 2008, when my left hip cartilage was as kaput as my right hip was two years prior (and it hurt just to walk as my hip bones rubbed together), I decided I desperately needed the same attention.
I could have easily gone to a local hospital (considering the procedure was finally covered by insurance) but I remembered my decision to go to Apollo in 2006 and the experience I had there. I made the tough decision whether to get a total hip replacement locally and never run again, or get a hip resurfacing and possibly run again — which I could only afford out-of-pocket if I went to India. So...India it was!
Dr. Vijay Bose is, in my opinion, the best (and nicest) surgeon in the world. He could have practiced anywhere, yet he decided to serve in his home town and offer prices that couldn’t be beat. His assistants were also outstanding in every way! Going back for my second hip replacement was a celebration, because I got to meet my heroes all over again. (Now, if only I had a third hip!)
I last entered an organized running event in 2004, and in June 2009 I field-marshaled the "Running of the Monk" 5K in Springfield, Delaware County, sponsored by the Delaware County Road Runners Club, of which I am a member. There must have been at least 200 Students Run Philly Style participants. Many acknowledged me as I urged them on for the final mile, and I could see they were giving it their all. I later got to hand out water cups to several of these runners at the 16th and 25th mile markers of the 2009 Philadelphia Marathon — I could really feel their sense of commitment.
I had to go all the way to India to find the right surgery team for my needs, but I only have to go to the Please Touch Museum on April 17th to make my proper return to an organized running event after a 6-year hiatus. I am excited that I will not only get to honor my surgical heroes, but also run alongside these wonderful runners I've been rooting for – my US heroes!
The people who have influenced my life the most are my mother and father. They were the ones who instilled the qualities of trust, honesty, respect, and hard work in my everyday life. I look back to the days when my father was driving trucks across the country and it was my mother who was outside helping me practice my pitching for softball. It was times when I would look into the stands for my father before I could start a field hockey game that I remember. And it was the time when I looked into the stands and instead of him sitting in the stands, he was sitting in a wheelchair all bundled up, because he just had open heart surgery, and vowed never to miss one of my college field hockey games that I remember. It was times like those that I remember and cherish. I owe everything to my parents.
My parents have by far been the biggest influence as to how I live my life and as to who I am. They have helped shape me into the person I am today by instilling a great work ethic, demonstrating the importance of a strong family bond, by teaching me the magnitude of morals and life lessons and what it means to truly be an innately good person. Beginning at a young age, my parents have always given me the space to learn and grow on my own and have always encouraged me to be true to myself and others, to see the world and to be open and willing to try new things. They have shown me the true meaning of unconditional love and how meaningful it is to be there for my family and loved ones in not only the good times, but during the bad times as well. Without them, I would never be the happy, loving person that I am today!
Dr. David George has made me a better person in a variety of ways. He is first and foremost, a brilliant role model. He dares to be a force for positive change when the path of complacent sameness is far less work. He understands that each of us has good qualities which must be recognized and praised, other qualities which need to be groomed; and those other qualities which prevent/impede success if unchanged. Even when he is talking about those things which need to be changed, he maintains a positive attitude. He taught me that being “book-smart” without compassion for others is makes you incomplete as a person and as a physician. He always taught me to find out why someone is sick, and more importantly, what does that illness mean to that person. I am a better person, husband, father, and physician because of him.
It's been 23 years since I was her student, but Miss Erwin's impact has not faded. She had a sign on our classroom wall that read, "If it's difficult, we'll finish tomorrow. If it's impossible, it will take a little bit longer." Miss Erwin lived her life with this approach, and taught her students this steadfast perseverance. With a group of ten year olds, the phrase "I can't!" was uttered quite often, whether it was struggling over a math problem or figuring out a science project. She would hear those words and just point to the sign. I remember Miss Erwin and that sign every time I want to give up, every time I want to take a nap instead of going to the gym, every time I think "I CAN'T!!!"...and it helps me find the perseverance to realize I can. Thanks, Miss E!
Susie Maguire is the second-oldest of eight siblings, a mother of three grown children, and a 3-time marathon finisher & 3 time Ironman finisher. Susie credits her biggest mentor—her father, Jim Maguire, for instilling in her the discipline to achieve her goals.
"My Dad was always into fitness- and living a healthy lifestyle; he was an avid runner and marathoner. He used running as a discipline and when bad grades turned up I knew that I would be doing a lot of running. I can still hear my dad's voice: "Meet me at tomorrow morning at 6:00a.m sharp".
As time went those dreaded early morning runs became something I looked forward to. He would say, "Put one foot in front of the other, keep moving forward, don't stop no matter how slow." Running became a way for my father and I to connect to each other during my awkward teenage years. When we were running together there was a great positive energy between us- any walls or tension seem to disappear and over time we became loyal running partners," Susie said.
When Susie was 18, Jim asked if she wanted to run the Philadelphia Marathon. Susie agreed and the father daughter team started training together. One week before the race, Jim pulled his Achilles tendon, while Susie went on to race alone. Jim made sure the entire Maguire clan was along the course all day cheering her on to the finish line.
Now a parent herself, Susie really sees the value in what her father has given her. "My dad always thought I was a superstar," she said. "I learned that the discipline needed for training for a marathon is the same discipline for success in life. I cherish his advice to Show up Every day; Have a Positive Attitude, and Never Give Up. I am lucky to have had my dad as my mentor!"