Past ‘Heroes’ Provide Virtual Inspiration for Akron Marathon

Akron Marathon Heroes

One of the great traditions of the FirstEnergy Akron Marathon is designation of Akron Children’s Hospital Heroes who inspire runners with their determination to overcome medical obstacles. This year, Akron Children’s Heroes will provide their encouragement to the 2,000 marathon runners in spirit as the race adopts a new virtual format due to the coronavirus health emergency.

Just as the young heroes inspire runners, they inspire the rest of us to tackle challenges head on with determination and a positive attitude. We invite you to learn more about the journeys of past Akron Children’s Hospital Heroes who were sponsored by FirstEnergy.

Caroline Mizer

In 2016, FirstEnergy introduced its first hero, Caroline Mizer, daughter of Kevin Mizer, FirstEnergy’s manager of program development, Emerging Technologies. She was 3 when she was diagnosed with optic nerve tumors that eventually led to her loss of vision. Through Akron Children’s Hospital, Caroline underwent chemotherapy treatments every week for 72 weeks. Caroline was 12 years old when she wore her cape in the FirstEnergy Hero Zone in downtown Akron. As runners passed by, Caroline and her family cheered on the racers and encouraged them to power to the finish line located at Canal Park baseball stadium. 

She is now entering her junior year at Revere High School and spends her spare time as a true teenager – listening to music, hanging out with her friends, and spending time with her rabbit, Bandit. Kevin said, “As a family we have many fond memories of Caroline’s Hero experience and thank Akron Children's Hospital and FirstEnergy for such great opportunity.”

Elise Bonsky

FirstEnergy’s 2017 hero was 6-year-old Elise Bonsky, daughter of Jenny Bonsky, senior business analyst, FirstEnergy Utilities Support. At age 3, Elise was diagnosed with Alexander Disease (AxD), a rare disorder of the nervous system that can cause seizures, developmental regression, muscle tightness and speech issues.

There is no known cure, and at the time she was diagnosed, Elise was one of 75 cases of AxD in the world. Despite suffering a setback in 2019, Elise is now almost 9 years old and is thriving. She’s entering third grade at Fort Island Primary School and Jenny is pleased to report, “Elise is happy she is healthy, and best of all, she’s approaching remote learning the way she approaches everything else in her life – with a big smile.”

Rylee Kulick

Rylee was named FirstEnergy hero in 2018 for the fight she endured after being born 12 weeks early, weighing just one pound, 13 ounces. Rylee’s dad, Jonathan Kulick, supervisor of Regional Meter Reading for The Illuminating Company (CEI), said, “Rylee was so fragile at birth and despite many setbacks, she kept fighting. She hasn’t stopped fighting since, as we still have some learning challenges to overcome, but I’m convinced she has thrived due to the special care she received at Akron Children’s Hospital.” 

Rylee is now 11 and continues to flourish. She’s entering fifth grade and will attend school remotely for the 2020-2021 school year. When Ohio schools moved to online learning this spring due to COVID-19, remote learning was a struggle for Rylee. With the help of virtual tutoring and virtual Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) through Akron Children’s Hospital, she overcame obstacles and issues with anxiety, and is now excelling. 

Brayden McDonald

FirstEnergy’s 2019 hero was Brayden McDonald, the child of Melanie McDonald, advanced customer accounting associate, Customer Service and Billing Controls. Diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis (CF) at just four weeks old, Brayden spent a significant amount of time in hospitals to receive treatment for the disease with no cure. “Brayden goes to Akron Children’s Hospital several times a year for appointments with the CF Care Team and annually for an extensive visit with tests and exams,” Melanie said.

Brayden is now 11 years old and has been keeping busy by playing video games, taking walks, hiking, going to drive-in movies, and playing with the family dog, Clash. “Brayden’s health has been good overall by keeping up with daily treatments and medications, and we recently experienced our first ‘virtual’ Akron Children’s Hospital CF Clinic visit in July,” Melanie said. With Brayden’s interest and aptitude for video games, remote learning and virtual appointments will be an easy adjustment.      

To learn more about the Akron Marathon, visit 


CONTACT: Will Singer, 330-384-5657

Last Modified: October 29, 2020