Written by Elizabeth Ratta
The Rita Skertich Virtual 5k/10k Walk and Run took place on September 18, 2021. I organized this as a fundraising event for the Rita Skertich Research Grant which I created with the support of the Bee Foundation to specifically benefit Black, Hispanic and Women’s Brain Aneurysm Research. As a brain aneurysm survivor (I had a craniotomy/clipping in 2018 ) I deeply felt I owed it to the people who didn’t survive their aneurysms and to those who have deficits to do something concrete to make a difference. Most importantly, it grew out of the knowledge that those who are Black, Hispanic and/or female have higher rates of brain aneurysms coupled with historically lower research funding in medicine. The grant started right after George Floyd had been murdered when I asked myself if my brain aneurysm outcome would have been the same if my skin were a different color. Naming it after my grandma who also suffered a brain aneurysm was important to me since without all the suffering she endured, I may not be here today.
Rita Skertich Run for Research
For me personally, the Rita Skertich Virtual Walk/Run was an emotional day. I really underestimated how amazing it would feel to come together virtually with other brain aneurysm survivors, our friends and families and even with strangers across the country. There was something profound about everyone coming together to declare that this is important. During my own walk with my family, I asked a random stranger to take our picture. As we turned around for her to get the picture of our backs, she read the shirt and said oh my goodness, my parents both died of brain aneurysms! I had a good cry with her and talked to her about getting scanned. I like to think that my grandma and Jenny (for whom the Bee Foundation was founded in her honor) had a hand in that meeting. People from every chapter of my life, from elementary school friends I haven’t seen in decades, to high school, college, grad school, strangers across the country who have become like family, people from nearly every job I’ve ever had, family members and brain aneurysm survivors all participated and were sending me heartfelt messages of support. For me personally, I didn’t realize how important this event would be for my own emotional recovery.
These moments of connection- from the woman who randomly stopped to take our picture to messages of support are so vital. For brain aneurysms in particular, this awareness and these conversations will undoubtedly save lives. As human beings these connections are what make us come alive and realize the value on our actions- even ones that seem small and insignificant can cause a ripple effect. We all have this power to transcend our circumstances and make a difference in one another’s lives and I hope that this walk/run will positively impact the lives of brain aneurysm survivors and their families in the future. I cried as I did the walk and I cry as I write this message. My heart is filled with gratitude for all of you, for affirming all the goodness in humanity and with the knowledge that your generous donations and actions will have a real impact on brain aneurysms.
A special thank you to Erin Kreszl from the Bee Foundation for her unending support and expertise, to the University of Vermont Medical Center for co-sponsoring this event, to Darn Tough, Skida, REI and Untapped Maple for their generous donations for this event. Most importantly, for each one of you I thank you from the bottom of my heart for being a part of this.
All my best,