For the first time in three years, University of Louisville medical, dental and other students who ran the Kentucky Derby Festival miniMarathon or Marathon were able to present their race medals in person to their race buddies, children battling a critical illness.
This year marks the 15th UofL Medals4Mettle event, which pairs the UofL students with children battling critical illness who are patients of Norton Children’s Cancer Institute, affiliated with the UofL School of Medicine. The students presented medals they earned for running the 13.1-mile mini marathon or 26.2-mile marathon on April 30 to the kids at a socially distanced, outdoor party at the Health Sciences Center Courtyard.
This was the third time that fourth-year medical student David Means has run the KDF miniMarathon in honor of Seth Walsh, a 7-year-old battling leukemia.
“I’ve gotten to see Seth grow year by year,” Means said. “I’ve actually seen him at a UofL game and we’ve done a few other events. Just to meet him and his family and see what a cool family they have – so much support for this little man.”
Walsh has his collection of the medals hanging on his bedpost, said his mother, Michelle.
“It’s a great way for the students to learn what these children are going through, but fun for the children to realize that people are there for them,” she said.
The UofL Medals4Mettle event is part of an Indianapolis-based nonprofit organization that links athletes and critically ill individuals. The pandemic prevented the traditional in-person medal ceremony for the last two years, so students running in 2020 and 2021 sent their medals to the kids with a personal note, connecting virtually over Facetime or Zoom when possible.
This was the third Medals4Mettle run for Madi Harley, a third-year medical student who plans to practice pediatrics. While her buddy was unable to attend Saturday’s medal exchange, she enjoyed the smiling faces of the kids who were there.
“I hope we are able to serve as a bright light for each kid, reminding them they are rock stars and we are rooting for them,” she said.