Joanna Grossman Miller displays part of a "Thank you" message during a past CHaD Hero Half Marathon. (COURTESY)
She runs as repayment
The half marathon and 5K - along with a 10K wooded hike, family fun run and festival - take place today on and around the campus of Dartmouth College. Race-day registration starts at 9:30 a.m.
"Eventually it got to the point where I had a very quick downhill slide," she said. "My parents actually came home from work one day to find me sitting on the front steps because I didn't have the strength to turn the key in the lock, and at that point it was very clear there was something wrong with me.
"My immune system mistakes the myelin sheath as a virus, so it strips it off the nerve," she said. "My brain is sending the message, my muscles are still strong and can hear the message, but my nerves can't convey the message."
"It was amazing. It truly felt miraculous to me, and being at CHaD was such a wonderful experience because they are specifically there to care for children that are scared and not sure of what's going on," she said. "They are there to treat what is wrong with your body, but they also care for your soul, and all the nurses there are so wonderful and loving to the patients."
Miller now lives in Stow, Mass., with her husband, Nate, and their 2-year-old daughter, Nora.
Miller said she thought, "I am lucky to have my health thanks in large part to the care that I received there, so I should do something with my health to give back."
This marks her second year as a member of the Honor Connor team, formed in memory of Connor Cook, a Thetford Academy student who died while a patient at CHaD after he was struck by lightning in 2012.
She said contributions come from many donors in small amounts. It's amazing what a lot of $25 and $50 donations can add up to, she said.
It's become quite a family affair, Miller said.
Her father, Dan Grossman of Maple Leaf Photography, donates his time and talent photographing runners along the course. Her sister photographs people coming across the finish line, and her husband photographs the volunteers.