Fishers mom gives back

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Mother of two children treated at Peyton Manning Children’s Hospital organizes annual 5k Family Fun Run

By Nancy Edwards

A mother’s strong and giving spirit has led her to raise thousands of dollars to benefit Peyton Manning Children’s Hospital, the same institution that has treated her two daughters throughout their lives.

Courtney Cooley, 26, is organizing the 3rd Annual 5k Family Fun Run to benefit Peyton Manning Children’s Hospital.

Courtney’s oldest daughter, Ellie Cooley, 4, had a condition called Vesicoureteral Reflex, the backward flow of urine from the bladder into the kidneys. When Ellie became lethargic, dehydrated and suffered from severe fevers, her parents, Courtney and her husband, John, 26, took her to Peyton Manning Children’s Hospital. The doctors decided against risky surgery for such a young patient and were able to choose the least invasive method possible with medicine to treat Ellie, who has no symptoms today.

Lilly, 3, suffers from severe asthma and respiratory syncytial virus, an infection of the lungs and breathing passages. She can’t go outside to play any longer than 20 minutes at a time, and a cold can keep her bedridden for weeks. Lilly has had to see a specialist at Peyton Manning Children’s Hospital as early as 4 a.m., and the doctors encourage them to come in immediately when a problem arises.

“They’re always there,” Courtney said of the physicians treating Lilly. “It’s nice to have those doctors – they are the best support system. I couldn’t ask for any better. I feel lucky.”

Wishing to express as much gratitude to the doctors as possible, Courtney created a 5k Family Fun Run, an annual race that gives 100 percent of its proceeds to the children’s hospital.

“She presented the idea to the family and we all jumped on board,” said Tracey Smith, 51, Courtney’s mother. “She went out and found a venue, sponsors, donors and volunteers.

“It’s not just a 5k race, though,” Tracey continued. “It is a big family event with games, music, mascots, food, raffles and a free kids’ race where all the children receive medals and more.”

In 2012, the first 5k run raised $2,400 for the hospital. In April, the race produced $6,100. The next race will be held April 12, 2014 at Butler University and will include a balloon artist, a stroller-friendly course and additional games. There also will be two signed Peyton Manning photos as a raffle prize.

Courtney’s siblings have all volunteered to help with the run each year. Brittany, 25, designs T-shirts and logos and J.D., 23, directs volunteers and is a course director and Jesse, 17, is in charge of the games for kids.

“It’s a really neat experience for them to be working closely together,” Tracey said. “It’s a project close to their hearts – even though everyone is busy, they make time for this.”

Jesse also helps with another fundraiser for Peyton Manning Children’s Hospital that Courtney created called Wear Lids for Kids. The event is held at various schools in Hamilton County. Kids are allowed to wear their favorite hat for a day for only $1. The last event raised $405.

Lilly and Allie have their own favorite special event with their mom: Trick or Treat for Kids off Their Feet. Courtney started this for kids staying at the children’s hospital who can’t get out for trick-or-treating. Courtney hand-delivers bags to her entire neighborhood along with a letter explaining the cause. She then collects the candy donations and delivers them to the children at the hospital along with her daughters. This spirit that Lilly and Ellie have, according to Molly Giles, former annual giving coordinator for the St. Vincent Foundation, is impressive.

“They’re adorable,” Giles said. “I think they will grow up to do amazing things. They’re very brave. They have in depth stories from being patients in the hospital. They care about each other always. To be that young and well-mannered and caring is impressive.”

The eagerness to help doesn’t fall far from the tree, according to Scott Fihma, a race sponsor and family friend who coached Courtney in track at Clay Middle School in Carmel.

“Nobody asked (Courtney) to put on the race,” he said. “She just did it out of the kindness of her heart. It’s something she wanted to do and that’s just awesome. Not many people would do something like that without being asked.”

For more information about the 3rd Annual 5k Family Fun Run, please visit the following Facebook page link: www.facebook.com/pages/5k-Family-Fun-Run/100374826759842.

To register for the event, go to: https://secure.getmeregistered.com/get_information.php?event_id=9487–registration.

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