CUYAHOGA FALLS – Most times others raise funds for cures, but this year a runner is racing to find a cure for Multiple Sclerosis after being diagnosed himself.
Jon Franko of St. Louis, Missouri, will run 160 miles, his segment of the 3,260 miles of the Run Across America fundraiser for the non-profit organization, MS Run the US Inc. MS is a disease of the central nervous system that disrupts the flow of information within the brain and between the brain and body.
Each runner in the country-wide relay from Los Angeles to New York raises $10,000 but first-time runner Franko has raised $26,000 so far, said Amy Wirtz, community engagement manager for MS Run the US Inc.
"Jon was diagnosed with MS a few years ago and is committed to doing whatever he can to end this disease that is so personal to him," Wirtz said.
Franko began his segment Monday in Van Wert, Ohio and will finish at noon Saturday at the Missing Mountain Brewing Co. in Cuyahoga Falls, the 16th segment of the relay.
Runners will have Sunday off with Lauren Wentz of Cranberry Township, north of Pittsburg, taking the baton on July 29 and running her segment to Brookfield, Pennsylvania.
Franko will run the 158-mile "Hope for Hannah" segment named for Hannah Minichillo, 18, and residents are encouraged to gather beginning at 11 a.m. Saturday at Missing Mountain Brewery to cheer Franko onto the finish line. Everyone who comes out will receive a free t-shirt.
Stow resident Matt Minichillo, organizer of the event, is assistant dean of Arts & Sciences at Kent State University. Matt said he was inspired to get involved with MS Run the US when his daughter Hannah was diagnosed with MS four years ago. He sponsors the "Hope for Hannah" segment.
Team Hannah consists of family and friends of Hannah Minichillo, who graduated from Walsh Jesuit High School and will be attending John Carroll University.
Hannah’s first symptoms of MS were vision problems. After an eye exam, she went to Akron Children’s Hospital where an MRI test confirmed she had MS.
Minichillo said he found out about the MS fundraiser through Vertical Runner, and he has participated in a few marathons. He ran 180 miles in 2016 along the same segment Franko will run this year, and he ran with a team in 2017.
A sponsor helps to cover the costs of the marathon so all donations raised by the runners can go to finding a cure for MS.
For more information, go to www.msruntheus.org
Reporter Laura Freeman can be reached at 330-541-9434.