2017 Team Eye and Ear Members

We are proud to introduce the 2017 members of Team Eye and Ear, the Mass. Eye and Ear marathon team, who will participate in the Boston Marathon on April 17.

Team Eye and Ear members span a wide range of athletic abilities (novice to experienced marathoners) and walks of life. They are generous and dedicated individuals who are athletes, fundraisers and ambassadors for Mass. Eye and Ear.

Their hard work, dedication and pure passion brings new hope and a healthier future to people everywhere who suffer from debilitating conditions affecting sight, hearing, voice, balance, taste and smell, as well as cancers of the eye, head and neck.


Jessie Akelian
(Raymond, NH)

Akelian Jessie Jessie Akelian was inspired to run for Team Eye and Ear by the experiences of a couple people close to her. “My mom had eye surgeries as a child,” Jessie said, “So I can appreciate the intricacy and importance of treatment of the eye, ear, nose, and throat.” One of Jessie’s friends, Becca, is a former Mass. Eye and Ear patient. She had a cyst on her thyroid removed by Mass. Eye and Ear clinicians. Fortunately, the cyst was non-cancerous. Becca continues to rave about the care she received. “If I can help more people receive great medical treatment, I would love to do that,” Jessie said. Jessie has a unique way of cross-training: She exercises on aerial silks. “They condition me both physically and mentally,” she said. “They cause me to do things that are scary, to trust and let go, and to be confident that everything will play out in the way that it is supposed to.”

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Cheri Boulanger
(Ashland, MA)

Boulanger Cheri Cheri Boulanger, a nurse, works in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit at Mass General, where some of her patients are recovering from airway surgeries at Mass. Eye and Ear. She is running for Team Eye and Ear to support the Operation Airway Fund at Mass. Eye and Ear, which funds airway surgery and care for children around the world. Cheri has had family members receive care at Mass. Eye and Ear; her daughter is a former patient, having had surgery to relieve blocked tear ducts, and her cousin has participated in clinical trials for retinitis pigmentosa. Cheri is very active in her spare time. In addition to running, she enjoys cycling, skiing, and going to the gym. She also spends time volunteering for the local school system. 2017 will not be her first Boston Marathon; one of her proudest running moments was running it in 2012. “I ran the 2012 Boston marathon in the scorching heat and was able to maintain a decent pace. And I didn’t require fluids afterwards,” she said.

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Art Buckland
(Boston, MA)

Buckland Art Art Buckland has run the Boston Marathon before, but that was 20 years ago, on the marathon’s 100th anniversary. “Running for Team Eye and Ear will provide the inspiration for me to get back on the road and help myself while helping others,” he said. As a patient himself, Art understands firsthand the significance of the hospital’s work. Art hopes that running the 2017 Boston Marathon will be the start of a new tradition. “I hope it is habit-forming and I do this every year for decades,” he said.

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Grace Calore
(Randolph, MA)

Calore Grace Grace Calore is gearing up for her second Boston Marathon. She is running for Team Eye and Ear because friends and family members have received care at Mass. Eye and Ear, and she believes in the hospital’s mission. Always up for a challenge and passionate about fitness, Grace likes to try different kinds of obstacle races: She has completed two Spartan races, three Warrior Dashes, and two Tough Mudder races. In her words, “They add a little excitement to my runs.”

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Paul and Michael Cannistraro
(Boston, MA)

Cannistraro Brothers 2 Paul Cannistraro is excited to run his first Boston Marathon with his brother Michael, who will be running the Boston Marathon as a member of Team Eye and Ear for the third time. “My parents, my many siblings, and I have long been enthusiastic and proud supporters of Mass. Eye and Ear,” Paul said. Recently, his father became a patient after being diagnosed with throat cancer. His radiation treatment was successful, and his cancer has not returned. “My family and I are incredibly grateful for the compassionate and exceptionally skilled care that my father received throughout the process,” Paul said. Paul, a psychiatrist, is an avid runner and sculler. He also plays the piano and enjoys playing both jazz and popular music. He recently ran his first half-marathon (although he had run marathons before) with Michael in Cambridge last November. He hadn’t practiced much running leading up to the race, but he had a fair excuse — he had been busy preparing for the Head of the Charles. Still, he finished the race in good time. “I am very excited to see what I can do now for a full marathon,” he said. “And with the Charles frozen over this winter, I will be focused on running!”

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Bill Casey
(Newport, RI)

After finishing an ironman competition in Panama City, Fla., Bill Casey felt that his voice was changing and he developed a lump in his neck. After being diagnosed near his Newport, R.I., home, the owner of Casey’s Marina came under the care of Dr. Dan Deschler. Bill, who didn’t start participating in endurance races until he was in his early 40s, underwent surgery and chemotherapy/radiation treatments. Now, back in running form, the veteran runner plans to run his fourth Boston Marathon for Team Eye and Ear. “I am a cancer survivor because of Dr. Deschler and Mass. Eye and Ear,” says Bill. “Because of him and Mass. Eye and Ear, I discovered that you can stand up to cancer.”

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Kathy Charbonnier
(Tewksbury, MA)

Joining Mass. Eye and Ear in 2016 as the Nursing Director of the Mass. Eye and Ear Emergency Department, Kathy Charbonnier oversees the only 24 hour, seven day a week ED in the region dedicated to eye and ENT emergency services. She is also an avid marathoner who looks forward to running her seventh Boston Marathon and tenth overall marathon as a first time member of Team Eye and Ear. Kathy qualified for Boston at the Providence Marathon. She has enjoyed training with her son and daughter and says, “I am proud to be part of Team Eye and Ear and am looking forward to raising money for research to help accelerate cures for blindness, deafness and diseases of the head and neck.”

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Will Collins
(Sharon, MA)

Collins Will Will Collins, a graduate student, has collaborated with Mass. Eye and Ear through his research. His colleagues have worked on developing artificial cornea replacements. Will has chosen to run the Boston Marathon for Team Eye and Ear because the endeavor combines his passion for running with his belief in the hospital’s mission: “I am a lifelong cross-country runner, and I thoroughly believe in the charitable and humanitarian work that Mass. Eye and Ear does,” he said. In addition to running, Will enjoys cycling, rock climbing, and programming.

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Amy Comander
(Chestnut Hill, MA)

Comander Amy Dr. Amy Comander is specially positioned to understand the hard work being done at Mass. Eye and Ear. Her husband, Dr. Jason Comander, is a physician-scientist in the Mass. Eye and Ear Inherited Retinal Disorders Service and Retina Service, and Amy is a physician herself next door at Mass General. “I am incredibly impressed by the many participants running to raise money for important causes,” Amy added. She is proud to be a member of Team Eye and Ear for her fourth Boston Marathon, saying, “What could be a better cause than raising funds to prevent blindness?” Amy is running to support the cutting-edge research being done in Inherited Retinal Disorders at Mass. Eye and Ear.

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Erika Couture
(Auburn, NH)

Couture Erika 3Erika Couture is running the Boston Marathon for Team Eye and Ear in honor of her late grandfather, William “Steve” McLaughlin. He suffered from age-related macular degeneration and was a participant in the Age-Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS) at Mass. Eye and Ear. “He proudly carried his Mass. Eye and Ear card in his wallet,” she said. “I am proud to run this race in his honor.” Erika’s husband and two toddlers come to all her races. “They are always ready for a hug and a kiss to send me on my way,” she said.

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Daniel Cutright
(Newton, MA)

Cutright DanielDaniel Cutright, a junior at Boston College, is running his first-ever marathon for Team Eye and Ear because of his positive experiences with the hospital. A family history of macular degeneration and personal experience as a glaucoma suspect have contributed to his understanding of the important work being done at Mass. Eye and Ear. “I want to be part of a team and an organization that will help make a difference in people’s lives,” Daniel said. “I think running for Team Eye and Ear will provide a unique and exciting opportunity.” Running the Boston Marathon has been a lifelong goal for Daniel, who recalls growing up watching the runners pass near his house. Today, he is an active runner, involved in the Special Olympics Club at BC, and every week he plays soccer with the BC team that participates in the Special Olympics. At Newton South High School, he captained the Track & Field team, cheering on his teammates even when sidelined by a fracture in his foot that required surgery. He was on crutches for six months and missed his senior year indoor and outdoor track seasons. “It was extremely frustrating to be relegated to the sideline for what I had hoped would be very promising season,” he said. “However, I realized that I still had a responsibility to the team as its captain. I dedicated myself to going to every practice and meet, and I think that my presence and support helped keep the team together and unified.” Today, Daniel is cleared to run and is excited to fulfill his dream of running the Boston Marathon.

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Kerryn Doherty
(South Boston, MA)

A young woman with a bright future in 2013, Kerryn Doherty was shocked when she lost almost all vision in her right eye for about a year. “At one memorable appointment, I was told my vision could slowly return, but may never fully recover, which left me pretty devastated and scared,” admits Kerryn, who still has a very bright future. Although she admits that her tennis game is still terrible, she has recovered about 85 percent of the vision she had lost. “I feel extremely fortunate to have had access to my amazing neuro-ophthalmologist, and I’m very thankful to run to support research at Mass. Eye and Ear.”

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Alan Dumas
(The Woodlands, TX)

Dumas AlanAlthough currently based in Texas, Alan Dumas grew up in New England and recalls watching the marathon runners cross the finish line on Patriots Day. He has chosen to run for Team Eye and Ear to support a worthwhile cause, honor his New England roots, and demonstrate to his two children the values of hard work and community support. Alan started running three years ago and his races have been steadily increasing in number and difficulty level. He particularly enjoys running Spartan Obstacle Course races. Alan believes in the mission of Mass. Eye and Ear. “I believe that everyone should have the ability to experience the everyday things that many of us take for granted,” he said. “They should be able to see and hear a Tom Brady touchdown pass or a Big Papi home run. I know that even the simplest things like hearing my children laugh bring about memories that will last forever.”

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Michelle Egan
(Boston, MA)

Egan MichelleMichelle Egan is joining Team Eye and Ear for her first marathon. She has worked with Mass. Eye and Ear through her professional role in the health care industry, where she works on care coordination. “Mass. Eye and Ear has always been professional and helpful in care coordination,” she said, adding that she values running in support of an organization “that provides care and compassion for patients in need.” Although this will be her first marathon, Michelle is very active as a competitive boxer who holds two Golden Glove titles and two Rocky Marciano Tournament championships. “Training for boxing is where I have learned discipline and how to train to compete at my best,” she said. “It takes hours of running, conditioning, and sparring to reach a competitive level.” “Working in health care myself, I have seen health care organizations do great things through fundraising for patients and communities in need,” Michelle said. “I would like to help.”

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Amy Exner
(Somerville, MA)

Exner AmyAmy Exner has worked as a nurse on the Pediatric Unit of Mass. Eye and Ear for the past three years.“Working at Mass. Eye and Ear has opened up my possibilities in my profession,” she said. “I have become a better nurse and coworker. This hospital and the people I work with have done so much for me, and I would love to give back and show my support.” Amy enjoys running as part of a group. She ran her first marathon in 2015 in the Redwood Forest in California, alongside best friend. “It was incredibly memorable, knowing that we had trained in separate states but had the same goal and stuck with each other towards the end,” she said.

Amy Exner


Karen Feeney
(Winthrop, MA)

Feeney KarenKaren Feeney is running her first marathon with Team Eye and Ear. In 2009, Karen had her tonsils removed under the care of Dr. Michael Rho. She had previously had her tonsils removed at a different hospital, and the experience had not gone well — Karen spent five days in the Intensive Care Unit and was left with a nick in her vocal cord. When she had sore throats again years after the initial procedure, Karen was sent to Mass. Eye and Ear to diagnose the problem. Dr. Rho found that she had a second set of tonsils at the back of her throat and would need to have them removed. He was sympathetic to her natural anxiety over having the procedure again and, per her request, did the operation itself. It was very successful. “The team of doctors and staff that I had at Mass. Eye and Ear were wonderful,” Karen said. “They do amazing work every day. It is an honor to help raise funds so they can continue to help others.”

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Maryjane Fellows
(Brookline, MA)

Fellows Maryjane 2Maryjane Fellows’ experience with Mass. Eye and Ear dates back to her childhood, when her mother sought treatment for glaucoma, a disease in which eye pressure on the optic nerve harms vision. Maryjane’s mother was diagnosed with the disease at the age of 37 and did not respond to traditional treatments. She underwent two successful open eye surgeries at Mass. Eye and Ear, having been considered legally blind before the operations. Maryjane is joining Team Eye and Ear to express her gratitude for the care her mother received. Running has been a long-time pursuit that began when she was a member of her high school track and field team. “It has been a constant aspect of my life since that time,” she said.

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Lisa Fleming
(Winchester, MA)

Although Lisa Fleming and her husband, Russ, have run for Team Eye and Ear in the past, Lisa is flying solo this year. Lisa is running in appreciation of the excellent care that her daughter, Emily, received from Mass. Eye and Ear for corneal lacerations. "We're so fortunate to be connected to such an outstanding institution that provides excellent, personalized care to every patient," says Lisa. "We’re so lucky to have Mass. Eye and Ear within driving distance to our home.”

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Eric Gaier
(Newton, MA)

Gaier EricEric Gaier, a current ophthalmology resident at Mass. Eye and Ear, is running for Team Eye and Ear to raise funds in memory of Dr. Simmons Lessell, a mentor of his. Dr. Lessell, who served as Director of Neuro-Ophthalmology at Mass. Eye and Ear, passed away in May 2016. “Dr. Lessell was a great mentor to me and many others,” Eric said. “He had an immeasurable impact on so many lives. His sudden passing was heartbreaking for many of us.” Eric’s raised funds will support the campaign to create a Simmons Lessell fellowship in Neuro-Ophthalmology, which will select one fellow per year. Eric used to run past the Mass. Eye and Ear main campus when he first moved to Boston, although he did not know at the time that he would be pursuing a career in ophthalmology. Running the Boston Marathon, his first marathon, will fulfill a long-held dream.

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Kevin Helm
(Charlestown, MA)

Kevin Helm was drawn to Team Eye and Ear through his work at Global Rescue LLC, a medical and security evacuation company in Boston. Kevin works in the health, safety and travel risk management space, which has helped him to realize how important it is that patients have access to hospitals like Massachusetts Eye and Ear. In addition, his father was a patient at Mass. Eye and Ear several years ago, and continues to speak highly of the care he received. Kevin is excited to fundraise for Team Eye and Ear. He says, “It goes without saying that this level of care does not come cheaply, and being able to provide individuals and families with access to these services should remain a priority in a landscape of ever-changing healthcare policies.” Kevin is no stranger to athletic fundraising events, as he was previously a student athlete at the high school and college levels. Although this will be his first Boston Marathon as well as his first time running for Team Eye and Ear, Kevin previously completed the Newport Marathon and The Prouty, a fundraiser event benefitting cancer research for the Dartmouth Hitchcock Cotton Cancer Center.

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Paul Herrick
(Beverly, MA)

Herrick Paul 2This year is Paul’s second year running with Team Eye and Ear. The mission of Mass. Eye and Ear is personal to him. He is running to raise funds for the Ocular Genomics Institute Fund. The Ocular Genomics fund conducts research on Stargardt disease, for which his 12-year-old nephew Eli is being treated. Stargardt disease is a form of macular degeneration, which causes loss in central vision, and primarily occurs in children and young adults. There is no known cure at this time. “Eli is doing well and the staff have had a positive impact on his family and his future,” Herrick said. “I want to help Eli’s researchers find a cure and make a difference.” While training for last year’s marathon, Paul, a realtor, found himself needing treatment at Mass. Eye and Ear. He experienced a sudden retinal detachment. On top of that, he also underwent cataract surgery. Surgery and recovery caused him to miss six weeks of training. Still, Paul persevered, learned different strategies from Mass. Eye and Ear staff and coaches, and finished the marathon. At Mass. Eye and Ear, “All the people I engaged with made me feel like I was the only patient,” Paul said. “They did their best to make me confident in my choices.” The experiences of the past year have reaffirmed Paul’s commitment to Team Eye and Ear. “I am reminded daily of how lucky I am to live near Mass. Eye and Ear,” Paul said. “And I am so proud of Eli for putting on such a strong face with his vision issues.”

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Ariel “Ed” Hight
(Cambridge, MA)

Hight EdEd Hight, a doctoral candidate at Harvard University, has worked in the Auditory Brainstem Implant laboratory led by Daniel J. Lee, M.D., and M. Christian Brown, Ph.D., since 2012. Interestingly, he has had a lifelong experience with hearing devices. Born deaf, Ed received a cochlear implant at the age of 3, just one year after the FDA approved the use of cochlear implants in children ages 2 and older, making him one of the first pediatric cochlear implant patients in the country. He later received a second cochlear implant at Mass. Eye and Ear. Now, as a young, dedicated scientist, he is working with colleagues and mentors at Mass. Eye and Ear/Harvard Medical School to improve the performance of another hearing device, the auditory brainstem implant.Ed has previously run a marathon and has completed over a dozen half-marathons. In addition to running, he plays intramural and club soccer. He also leads his PhD program mentoring organization.

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Jamie Holland
(Atkinson, NH)

A native son of Southern New Hampshire, Dr. Jamie Holland took a rather circuitous route to practicing orthodontics in his home state. After earning a bachelor’s degree in Microbiology from the Ohio State University, completing dental school at Washington University in St. Louis, and picking up a graduate degree in Orthodontics from Tufts University, Dr. Holland trained locally before spending a couple years practicing orthodontics in Saudi Arabia. Dr. Holland, who served five years in the U.S. Army Reserves as a captain in the Dental Corps, is running for Mass. Eye and Ear due to the terrific treatment that his son received as a young boy at Mass. Eye and Ear

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Nate Jowett
(Boston, MA)

Jowett NateDr. Nate Jowett is a physician in the Mass. Eye and Ear Facial Nerve Center and Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery department. “I’ve been extremely fortunate to have had the opportunity to train [at Mass. Eye and Ear] and to join an exceptional team of dedicated professionals in providing unparalleled care for disease of the head and neck,” he said. The 2017 Boston Marathon will be Nate’s second time running with Team Eye and Ear. This year, the funds he raises will go to support the research conducted in the Surgical Photonics and Engineering Laboratory.

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Alexa Kacin
(Boston, MA)

Kacin AlexaAlexa is joining Team Eye and Ear for the second time. “As a pediatric nursing assistant at Mass. Eye and Ear, I am humbled by the challenges and diversity the patients and their families face,” she said. Again this year, she will run in support of Dr. Christopher Hartnick’s work with the Operation Airway Fund. The goal of Operation Airway is to help children around the world who suffer from breathing problems through providing surgeries and training and encouraging collaboration between local doctors and health care professionals to provide the operations. Last summer, a research trip to South Africa helped Alexa realize the importance of philanthropy to medical progress. She participated in a qualitative research study of HIV-positive pregnant women aged 18-24, which had as its aim to understand their barriers to receiving preventative medicine for HIV. “After working on this HIV/AIDS research project in South Africa this past summer, I have a deeper appreciation for medical research and I recognize the importance of raising funds and awareness for medical research,” she said. “Working as a pediatric nursing assistant at Mass. Eye and Ear, I have witnessed firsthand the work of Dr. Hartnick. I want to support his efforts in helping and healing others.”

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Kent Kelley
(Bozeman, MT)

Kelley KentKent Kelley is looking forward to running for Team Eye and Ear once again for his second Boston Marathon. “I know it’s a tremendous cause, helping support the research that has a positive impact on so many people around the country,” he said. Kent is a devoted runner. He has run nearly three dozen marathons, and he has also run several ultra-marathons of 50 kilometers, 40 miles, and 52 miles. He has completed Ironman triathlons as well. His best running weekend, he said, took place in 2011, when he ran back-to-back marathons, and both under four hours.

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Rob Knapp
(Boston, MA)

Rob Knapp joins Team Eye and Ear for his sixth Boston Marathon. As a parent of a Mass. Eye and Ear patient, Rob understands the importance of patient care. Rob is teaming up with his former college roommate, Dr. Christopher Hartnick, on Team Eye and Ear to raise funds for pediatric airway research and patient care.

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Theresa Latona
(Somerville, MA)

Latona TheresaTheresa Latona is joining Team Eye and Ear for the second time. Theresa’s family has benefitted from the care provided by Mass. Eye and Ear, and she is joining the marathon team to give back to the hospital. “I am glad to be a part of this team again and to contribute to such a great cause,” she said. Fitness is a big part of Theresa’s life. She is a personal trainer, a dancer and a runner, having run marathons, half-marathons, and 5ks in the past. She enjoys the opportunity to give back through her running, and she has run other races for charitable causes.

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Sarah Lein
(Jacksonville, FL)

Lein SarahSarah Lein is joining Team Eye and Ear for her first Boston Marathon. Through her own experiences with eye issues, she understands the importance of the work being done at Mass. Eye and Ear. “I would like to run for Team Eye and Ear to help raise money for people suffering from debilitating eye issues,” she said. “From having several eye issues throughout my life, I realized that sight is one of the most important senses we have.” Sarah was injured her eye give years ago when a piece of wood got stuck in her eye when she was working across from a wood plant. It has since developed into a corneal scar which has healed just enough that; she can thankfully now see through that eye. She is also currently undergoing vision therapy for amblyopia, colloquially called lazy eye. Sarah, who is currently based in Florida and works as a cardiovascular tech, is an avid runner, having already run four marathons and two half-marathons.

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Erin Leonard
(Marblehead, MA)

Leonard ErinErin Leonard is running her first Boston Marathon as a member of Team Eye and Ear. She is raising money for the Pediatric Unit at Mass. Eye and Ear, where her three-year-old son, Rhys, has been a patient of Dr. Keamy for the past two years. He has had tubes put in his ears and has also received a tonsillectomy. The procedure required an overnight stay because of Rhys’ sleep apnea, and “we couldn’t have asked for a more caring, supportive staff,” she said. “From the playroom to the never-ending popsicles and movies, my son was able to recuperate in a caring and nurturing environment.” Rhys is now doing well. “I want to be able to give back to Dr. Keamy and the rest of the pediatric unit at Mass. Eye and Ear as well as all children who seek assistance from Mass. Eye and Ear,” Erin said. “I hope that the funds I raise will provide for other families who put their children in the hands of the amazing doctors, nurses, and staff at Mass. Eye and Ear.” Erin enjoys running for charity; the endorphins produced by exercise are boosted by the knowledge that she is helping others, she said. “It makes me push myself even harder, striving for a faster finish time.”

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Stephanie Livsey
(Hudson, NH)

Livsey StephanieStephanie Livsey is running on Team Eye and Ear because of prior medical experiences that make her familiar with the nature of care being done at Mass. Eye and Ear. After some routine blood tests, Stephanie learned that her calcium levels were high and her vitamin D levels were very low. It turned out that she had a tumor growing on one of her parathyroid glands. In order to avoid some of the potential complications of hyperparathyroidism, she underwent preventative surgery to remove one of the four parathyroid glands a few months after receiving the diagnosis. Doctors were surprised to find the tumor twice as large as they had expected and attached to her vocal cords. After the surgery, her calcium levels almost immediately returned to normal. Although not a Mass. Eye and Ear patient herself, Stephanie has had a friend and a family member have surgery at the hospital. “Getting involved and giving back, especially to an organization that does such great things, is very important to me,” she said. Stephanie has run a marathon once before, and she counts it among her greatest personal accomplishments. “It’s something I never dreamed possible,” she said. “I want to do it again to prove that all doubts can be overcome.”

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Grace MacDonald
(Marblehead, MA)

Grace and ShannonGrace MacDonald will run her first Boston Marathon as a member of Team Eye and Ear, and she will be running alongside teammate and best friend Shannon Smith. Shannon’s mother has been a Mass. Eye and Ear patient. In running for a good cause, Grace is following in the footsteps of her older brother, who is an avid runner and works every year to raise money for the Boys and Girls Club. “I am a huge fan of the marathon every year and have always aspired to run with my older brother,” Grace said. “I am always the one on the sidelines holding the massive signs or the one playing the sport and cheering on teammates at the same time. I am ecstatic to join a marathon team!”

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Brad McCarthy
(Mashpee, MA)

McCarthy BradBrad McCarthy has joined Team Eye and Ear as a former patient of Mass. Eye and Ear eager to give back to the hospital. In 2008, a sports injury left Brad with a shattered eye socket and cheekbone. Although this type of injury often causes lasting damage, Brad’s cheek and eye socket were completely reconstructed and repaired by Mass. Eye and Ear physicians. Today, there is no sign of there every having been an injury. In honor of the care he received, Brad will direct his raised funds to the department of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery at Mass. Eye and Ear. Although Brad has never run the Boston Marathon before, he has been an avid runner for two decades and has been running marathons since 2014. He also enjoys hiking, golf, and spending time with his rescue dog, Willa.

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Will McNamara
(Somerville, MA)

A Team Eye and Ear veteran, Will McNamara returns this April for his ninth Boston Marathon. He suffered a mountain biking accident near Vail, Colo., nine years ago. During surgery, he had a stroke to the optic nerve in both eyes, leaving him legally blind. Will and his new wife, Alexis, run this year with the hope that one day the research they are supporting will help restore his vision and others who have had similar experiences. “Dr. Joseph Rizzo at Mass. Eye an Ear has given me inspiration to move forward in my life after losing my sight,” Will explains. “It gives me a great feeling to be part of his team!”

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Stephanie Merisca
(North Lauderdale, FL)

Merisca StephanieStephanie Merisca is a current Mass. Eye and Ear patient. After experiencing loss of vision and blurred vision, she searched for answers, which led her to Mass. Eye and Ear. She was eventually diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, of which optic neuritis was her first sympton. The diagnosis, which came in March 2016, initially “stopped me in my tracks,” she said. In recent months, she has returned to running, which she finds therapeutic. “I am getting stronger every day,” she said. “It has been my dream to run the Boston Marathon, being a native Bostonian. If I can accomplish this in spite of my diagnosis, I can do anything.”

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Adam Meyer
(Medford, MA)

Meyer AdamAdam Meyer, a college freshman, has joined Team Eye and Ear in honor of his former boss, Denis Boudreau, who is legally blind. Adam worked with Denis for four years beginning at age 14; his job was to guide and assist him with work on his organic blueberry farm. “I hope that the money I raise for Team Eye and Ear will help fund research into curing or minimizing other people’s eye problems,” Adam said. Besides running, Adam is physically active in sailing, Nordic skiing, biking, and hiking. He also does volunteer work, washing dishes at church suppers.

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Sam Millen
(Belmont, MA)

Millen SamSam Millen has become a member of Team Eye and Ear to thank Mass. Eye and Ear for the care physicians, nurses, and staff showed his son when he was a patient recently. Sam’s son was two years old when he needed to have his adenoids removed. Before the operation, he was having trouble sleeping and breathing. An adenoidectomy is a fairly common procedure, but, as Sam said, “There’s never really anything routine about the idea of surgery on your child.” The team at Mass. Eye and Ear was reassuring, and the surgery was a success. Sam has enjoyed running for years and is looking forward to running his third Boston Marathon with Team Eye and Ear. “This seems like a good opportunity to both challenge myself and do something for the benefit of others,” he said. In addition to running, Sam is busy with his two young children, his high-tech business, and training as a student pilot.

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Pauric Miskell
(Quincy, MA)

Pauric Miskell is excited to run his first Boston Marathon with Team Eye and Ear, drawing inspiration from his grandfather in Ireland, who survived throat cancer about 10 years ago. “I have much respect for the tireless lengths that doctors go to for their patients in every hospital, including Mass. Eye and Ear,” he said. Miskell also runs for his family at home in Ireland, his girlfriend and his 6-month-old daughter. When he's not running, Miskell enjoys soccer, rugby and gaelic football.

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B Papadakis
(North Hampton, NH)

Papadakis BB Papadakis has joined Team Eye and Ear in honor of the care her daughter received many years ago. Her triplet daughters were born at 32 weeks at Mass General, and one needed a total of more than 38 surgeries at Mass General and Mass. Eye and Ear from her birth until age 5. At Mass. Eye and Ear, she received three complicated surgeries. She was born with a Type C fistula, meaning that her esophagus was not properly attached to her windpipe. In addition, her esophagus was not connected to her stomach. She needed surgery to resolve both problems. Later, when she had difficulty breathing, it was discovered that she had tracheal stenosis, a narrowing of the windpipe, which she also had treated at Mass. Eye and Ear. Finally, after dozens of episodes of pneumonia, she was diagnosed with and treated for a laryngeal cleft, a gap between the voice box and the esophagus that can allow food and liquid into the windpipe. “My husband and I would be honored to give back to Mass. Eye and Ear due to its excellent contribution to our daughter’s health,” she said. “Mass. Eye and Ear’s extreme talent, care, research, and devotion are, we believe, critical components responsible for our daughter’s success.” She is set to graduate this year from Phillips Exeter along with her sisters and intends to pursue pre-med studies in college. This will be B’s first Boston Marathon, although she has run two marathons before and more than a dozen half-marathons She has instilled the value of charitable giving in her daughters — when they were in elementary school, she helped them host a birthday party in which they asked for donations to charitable causes instead of gifts.

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Julie Pickering
(Charleston, SC)

Pickering JulieJulie Pickering, a high school teacher based in South Carolina, comes from a tight-knit Boston family with connections to Mass. Eye and Ear. Her grandfather and mother are current patients — her grandfather is receiving treatment related to hearing loss, and her mother is getting help with her decreased vision. Running the Boston Marathon has long been a “bucket list” goal, Julie said. She is an active runner, covering about 50 miles each week. In addition to running, Julie coaches high school varsity cross country and equestrian teams, cares for retired thoroughbred race horses, and volunteers at both her local animal shelter and an aquarium. Julie is pleased to be running for Team Eye and Ear. “I love to support an organization that focuses on new ways to improve vision and hearing throughout life,” she said.

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Sally Reiley

Reiley SallySally Reiley is running with Team Eye and Ear for the fourth consecutive year. She started running marathons in 2014, at age 54, and she convinced two of her daughters to join her on Team Eye and Ear last year. While her past marathon time qualifies her independently for the Boston Marathon, Sally finds extra joy in running for a good cause. “I could not imagine running the Boston Marathon without Team Eye and Ear,” she said. “For the past three years, it has been the compelling stories of the other runners and the knowledge of how Mass. Eye and Ear has changed lives that have given my marathon training meaning and purpose. I want to help raise money for the amazing research that the Mass. Eye and Ear physician-scientists are doing to find cures for blindness and to raise awareness of this among my friends.” In addition to running, Sally enjoys, skiing, sailing, tennis, and photography.

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Scott Roman
(Hingham, MA)

Roman ScottScott Roman is trying something new in running the Boston Marathon. He has always been athletic and enjoyed sports, but he hadn’t set his sights on running a marathon until recently, his interest coinciding with an entrepreneurial career transition. “Physical activity and exercise play a key role in my life, as they provide a welcome respite from the hard work and stress of my new business venture,” he said. Scott has chosen to run for Team Eye and Ear because his father is on the Board of Directors of Mass. Eye and Ear. “Mass. Eye and Ear has been close to my family for a long time. My father’s work with the organization has inspired me to get involved,” he said. In addition to enjoying sports and outdoor activities, Scott enjoys activities that allow him to be creative or learn something new, such as cooking and travel.

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Nancy Rowe
(Sudbury, MA)

Rowe NancyNancy Rowe is running her first marathon in support of Mass. Eye and Ear because she feels fortunate to have access to such a world-class institution. In 2003, Nancy’s then-five-year-old son received surgery at Mass. Eye and Ear to remove his tonsils and adenoids. It was a routine procedure, but she was understandably nervous. “This was my baby boy who was being operated on,” she said. She benefitted from the comforting doctors, nurses, and staff members. More recently, her mother has undergone two cataract surgeries at the hospital and has received high-quality care each time.

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Jessica Schmitz
(Boston, MA)

Schmitz JessicaJessica has chosen to run for Team Eye and Ear in honor of two people close to her who are suffering from vision problems: her father and close friend. Jessica’s father suffers from several eye diseases that have led to severe vision loss in one eye and double vision. “I run in his honor, to acknowledge his unwavering fight to maintain his active life despite a constant struggle to see clearly,” she said. Jessica is also running in honor of her friend Ginger, whom she has known since childhood and who is a Mass. Eye and Ear patient. Ginger has suffered from rheumatoid arthritis since she was a child, and the condition has caused eye inflammation and subsequent optic nerve damage. She has received surgery at Mass. Eye and Ear to reduce the pressure on her optic nerve and prevent further vision loss. “My friend is a daily inspiration to me,” Jessica said. “I am honored to run in her name to raise money and awareness for Mass. Eye and Ear to help further the hospital’s research and treatment of eye disease.”

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Carolyn Shea
(Weymouth, MA)

Shea CarolynCarolyn Shea is a veteran Team Eye and Ear runner; this will be her seventh marathon with the team and her 15th Boston Marathon. Carolyn is the manager of the Glaucoma Service at Mass. Eye and Ear and understands the burden of the debilitating eye disease. Through her participation with Team Eye and Ear, Carolyn continues to raise money for the Glaucoma Compassionate Care Fund, which assists patients who are having trouble paying for their sight-saving glaucoma medication. Carolyn says, “Illness and economics prevent a large number of patients access to medicine. We are dedicated to help those patients to give these patients a chance to preserve their sight.”

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Kayce Sherry
(Charlestown, MA)

Sherry KayceKayce Sherry’s son Barrett became a patient of Mass. Eye and Ear at just 20 days old. He was admitted to the hospital to treat his laryngomalacia, a condition that occurs when the larynx, or voice box, tissue is floppy — it can block the airway and make it difficult for a child to breathe and eat. When Barrett was admitted, Dr. Christopher Hartnick, Director of the Division of Pediatric Otolaryngology and the Pediatric Airway, Voice, and Swallowing Center, discovered that Barrett also had a cyst at the base of his tongue that was blocking his airway. He needed to have a tracheostomy — a tube surgically inserted into the windpipe — in order to be able to breathe while he grew large enough to have the cyst removed five months later. Now almost two-years-old, Barrett is trach-free and doing well. Kayce and her husband, Matt (who ran for Team Eye and Ear last year), are grateful to the team of physician, nurses, and staff who not only saved their son’s life but were also reassuring during a very distressing time. “Dr. Hartnick made me feel at ease during a time in our lives that was everything but easy,” Kayce said. The funds Kayce raises will go towards Dr. Hartnick and the Operation Airway Fund, which is dedicated to providing airway reconstructive surgery and services to children around the world.

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Emily Simard
(Boston, MA)

Simard Emily 3In running her first marathon, Emily Simard is fulfilling a long-held goal. She grew up in the Boston area and recalls cheering on the marathon runners as they came through her hometown. She is pleased to run in support of Mass. Eye and Ear, where her father received care after suffering a stroke that caused some vision loss. Emily has been actively involved in charitable work, volunteering for Boston Cares, Cradles to Crayons, Greater Boston Food Bank, and Heading Home. In her free time, she enjoys reading and spending time with family on Cape Cod.

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Shannon Smith
(Franklin, MA)

Grace and ShannonShannon Smith is running her first Boston Marathon in support of Mass. Eye and Ear, and she will be running with her best friend and now-teammate, Grace MacDonald. Shannon is running for Team Eye and Ear in memory of her uncle Rick, who passed away from head and neck cancer a few years ago. He was treated at Mass. Eye and Ear, where he had surgeries to remove tumors in his nasal cavities. He received helpful and supportive care, Shannon said. Shannon’s mother is also a former Mass. Eye and Ear patient. She had surgery to remove a tumor from her sinus cavity, which, fortunately, turned out to be benign. “I am so grateful for all Mass. Eye and Ear has done for my family, and I want to give back to the hospital to show how eternally grateful I am,” Shannon said. The funds she raises will be dedicated to head and neck cancer research.

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Brendan Stapleton
(Wilmington, MA)

Stapleton BrendanBrendan Stapleton, a master personal trainer and cancer rehab specialist, is an avid runner — this year will be his fifth time running the Boston Marathon. He chose to run for Team Eye and Ear after hearing patient success stories from clients and friends. “I would like to raise awareness and funds to support great programs for folks in need,” he said. His raised funds will go to support facial reconstructive surgery at Mass. Eye and Ear. Brendan is highly active in philanthropic pursuits. He has volunteered for a food pantry, the Burlington, MA Community Garden, Relay for Life, Boy Scouts, and the Greater Boston Food Bank, among other organizations. In addition to running, he is active in other athletic pursuits, including Ironman racing, hiking, skiing, swimming, cycling, soccer, and football.

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Deeni Taylor
(Carmel, IN)

Taylor DeeniDeeni Taylor is an experienced runner. This year, he will be running his second Boston Marathon, and he has previously run some 30 marathons and 40 half-marathons. He enjoys running with his daughter and is looking forward to running the marathon with her in support of Team Eye and Ear this year. In addition to running, Deeni enjoys golfing and fishing.

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John Thomas
(Toledo, OH)

Thomas JohnJohn Thomas is running on Team Eye and Ear for the second time. “I love the hospital and its mission,” he said. “I’m proud to support it, and I enjoy the personal challenge and discipline required.” 2017 will mark John’s second Boston Marathon. He has previously run nine marathons and six half-marathons. He cherishes spending time with his family.

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Nicholas Tuccinardi
(Melrose, MA)

Tuccinardi NicholasNicholas Tuccinardi, a high school teacher, has joined Team Eye and Ear with the goal of helping find a cure for his father, who is a patient. About a year ago, his father came home from work thinking he had a cold; his left ear was blocked. At the Mass. Eye and Ear Emergency Room, he was told that the worst-case scenario was sudden sensorineural hearing loss — in other words, sudden-onset hearing loss. The worst-case scenario was confirmed the next day. Nicholas’ father lost the hearing in his left ear and now has tinnitus — he hears a persistent buzzing sound. “My family and my father are grateful for the compassionate care he received while at Mass. Eye and Ear,” Nicholas said. “Despite his condition currently being incurable, we are optimistic that, through advancements in science and medicine, one day he will be able to hear again.”

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Matthew Weinstein
(New York, NY)

Weinstein MattMatthew Weinstein has joined Team Eye and Ear to support his father, who is recovering from a detached retina and its complications that required multiple eye surgeries. He has not yet regained full vision in his eye, although he is hopeful that it will return. “As I’ve spent time with my father during his recovery, I have developed a deep appreciation for the quality and importance of Mass. Eye and Ear’s work,” Matthew said. The Boston Marathon has long been an important component of Matthew’s relationship with his father. “The Boston Marathon has always been a special event for my father and me,” he said. “He was a longtime marathon runner, and we’ve watched every Boston Marathon together since I was very young. Given the connection my dad and I share with the Marathon, and his ongoing eye rehabilitation, I am honored to represent Team Eye and Ear, knowing that the funds I raise will allow Mass. Eye and Ear to continue to provide world-class care to patients like my father.”

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