Run With Your Heart to raise funds for pediatric cardiology

News Photo by Darby Hinkley Sisters Madi and Izzy Szymanski pose in their yard wearing their Run With Your Heart T-shirts on Tuesday. The young women are heading up the Run With Your Heart Race for a Cause 5K and 1-mile race on June 22 in Alpena, to raise funds for congenital heart defect awareness and treatment. They are organizing the event in memory of their sister Ryan, who only lived to be 28 days old, due to a congenital heart defect. She would have been 18 this year.

ALPENA — These sisters love running, and they want to share their passion with the community. They also want to raise funds for the Children’s Hospital of Michigan pediatric cardiology unit, where their newborn sister was treated for a congenital heart defect in July 2006. The baby only lived for 28 days before passing, but these young women hope to make an impact in honor of their late sister.

Madi and Izzy Szymanski are heading up the Run With Your Heart Race for a Cause on Saturday, June 22, starting from the north parking lot of Northern Lights Arena on Woodward Avenue in Alpena.

Their sister, Ryan Marie Szymanski, would have been 18 this year. The girls decided to create an event in her memory to build a legacy and be sure Ryan was not forgotten, and raise funds to help others whose children are diagnosed with congenital heart defects.

Run With Your Heart will feature a 5K and a 1-mile race. Registration is open at runsignup.com– Run With Your Heart Alpena. The entry fee is $25 per adult, and free for children age 12 and younger. T-shirts may still be available for $10 each. Same-day registration will start at 8 a.m., for $35 per adult, payable by cash or check made out to United Way — Run United. The 1-mile race starts at 9 a.m., and the 5K will kick off at 9:30 a.m. The course includes trails and paved sections.

Participants are encouraged to wear red or blue in support of congenital heart defect awareness.

Both Madi, 19, and Izzy, 15, were also born with congenital heart defects, but theirs resolved on their own, as some people are diagnosed and “grow out of” their conditions. Defects like a tiny hole in the heart, or a heart murmur, sometimes go undetectable, or become so faint that they do not require treatment.

Both teens love running and have no restrictions on the activities they are allowed to do, despite being initially diagnosed with heart defects.

The sisters came up with the idea on a bike ride last summer.

“It was Izzy’s idea, originally,” Madi said. “She said ‘Hey, what if we did this in memory of Ryan?’ This summer would be her 18th birthday. We thought it was a great idea, so we talked about it the whole ride … We talked to our parents, and they thought it was a great idea, too.”

Madi said the cause is dear to their family.

“It affects a lot more families than people realize,” Madi said. “One in 100 babies are born with a congenital heart defect. It’s a pretty big number. It’s not just, like, an anomaly.”

“It’s a very important thing for our family,” Izzy added. “We try to include and remember Ryan in everything we do, especially for me, because she passed before I was born, so I never even got to meet her. So, doing stuff like this, it just feels really good, to be able to do something to honor her.”

She added that in the U.S., a baby is born with a congenital heart defect every 15 minutes.

“That’s really often, and not a lot of people know what congenital heart defects are,” Izzy said. “But, obviously, a lot of people are affected by them. Not a lot of funding goes into the research, in comparison with diseases that aren’t as common, even. So, it’s just important to us to do everything we can to help with that.”

Madi just finished her sophomore year of college at Northern Michigan University, where she runs on the cross country and track teams.

“I’m studying nursing,” she said. “My goal is to be in the cardiology field, and Ryan is my inspiration.”

The girls’ parents are Emily and Rodney Szymanski, both avid runners.

“I’m just incredibly proud of them,” Emily said. “I’ve always, in my heart, wanted to find a way to represent Ryan and give back, and do stuff, and I’m just incredibly proud of them that they have chosen to do this.”

If you have questions about the race, email rununitedalpena@gmail.com.


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