Special Events Stories & Photos

Walk 2 Cure PH: Ellie Godina Memorial Walk
Euclid, Ohio, April 2011

PH Awareness, Funds Raised through Inaugural Walk

Ellie GodinaEllie Godina

On April 9, the Inaugural Walk 2 Cure PH: Ellie Godina Memorial Walk was held in Euclid, Ohio. The event honored 2 ½ -year-old Ellie, who lost her battle with pulmonary hypertension in 2010.

For months, doctors could not determine the cause of Ellie’s symptoms. Ellie was eventually diagnosed with acute PH. Tragically, she passed away only two days after the diagnosis. Amid their grief, Ellie’s parents, Missy and Joe Godina, vowed to raise awareness about the oftenmisdiagnosed disease. Missy says, “We wanted to raise awareness and funds for a cure so that other families won’t have to go through the same thing.”

And raise awareness and funds they did. Missy, Joe and their Walk 2 Cure PH committee created a special event that brought an entire community together. The event drew nearly 400 participants for a three-mile walk at Euclid High School and offered something for everyone — everything from a kids’ corner with giveaways, face painting and a balloon artist to educational tables representing industry and area hospitals. The event even kicked off with entertainment by the Euclid High School marching band. The Walk 2 Cure PH raised more than $31,000 for PHA’s research program and programs for patients and their families. PHA spoke with Missy after the event to learn about the various pieces that went into creating this successful fundraiser.

Missy and Joe GodinaMissy and Joe Godina

Goals for Walk 2 Cure PH

In addition to their desire to raise awareness and funds for PH research and patient programs, Missy and Joe wanted to create a walk that would “keep Ellie’s memory alive, and keep her legacy moving forward,” says Missy. Since the date of the event, Missy continues to receive feedback from the Euclid community describing the ways Ellie has touched others. “People feel they know her through the walk,” Missy says. “I now see people driving around with the [PH awareness] ribbon car magnet. It’s amazing how many know about PH now, when just one and a half years ago, I didn’t even know what it was.”

Participants & Publicity

Largely because of word-of-mouth marketing, Walk 2 Cure PH gained a huge amount of momentum early in 2011. On the day of the walk, as threats of rain dissipated, 90 walkers registered on-site, bringing total attendance to nearly 400. “It was a really mixed crowd — old, young, even newborns,” says Missy. Her background as a teacher garnered substantial involvement from the local public schools, and Missy and her committee planned several “mini” fundraisers throughout the preceding fall and winter to drum up excitement for the early spring walk, including a “change war” at Missy’s school, which was covered by a local TV afflilate.

Volunteers

It takes a village … to put on a special event! In addition to an event planning committee of eight, Missy had more than 60 volunteers who helped with a multitude of planning tasks and who ensured everything went smoothly on the day of the walk. Friends and neighbors greeted walkers on arrival and sold raffle tickets. Local teens ran the face painting and kids’ corner. For all their hard work, the Godinas made a point to publicly acknowledge each volunteer during the walk.

Special Guests

The Godinas were successful in getting various civic and PH community leaders to support the Walk 2 Cure PH. The mayor of Euclid and the superintendent of Euclid City Schools both attended, and as a result, each pledged endorsement of next year’s walk. PH patient Merle Reeseman, an active leader in the Cleveland-area PH community, delivered the keynote speech. Shari Caffrey, organizer of Race 2 Cure PH in Anaheim, Calif., lent advice and friendship throughout the planning process and traveled from California to attend.

Why It Matters

The Godinas chose to host Walk 2 Cure PH because they knew it was one way to create something positive out of grief. “The whole theme rotated around Ellie and the memories we have of her,” says Missy. She recalls when a student volunteer sang “Over the Rainbow” before the walk began. For a variety of reasons, the Godinas see rainbows as symbolic of their daughter. “A rainbow is justa piece of her,” says Missy. ”Every time I’m having a bad day, a rainbow appears.”

They also know that choosing and hosting a successful fundraiser will help PHA actively work toward a PH cure by sponsoring cutting-edge medical research and continuing to provide a community of hope for patients and families affected by PH.

Looking Ahead

Because of the overwhelmingly positive feedback, planning is already underway for the 2nd Annual Walk 2 Cure PH, which is set to take place in late April 2012. “We raised a lot more funds than I ever thought possible,” Missy says. “It’s truly amazing how generous people are. The community involvement was fantastic.”

 

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