Young girl’s spirit lives on in upcoming race

Thursday, September 27, 2018 - 09:53
  • Maddy Brandl (in green sash) participates in the first “Run for Maddy” 5k run at Eagle River High School in 2015. Brandl died in 2016, but the race continues to benefit children battling cancer. This year’s race is scheduled for Oct. 20. (Photo for the Star by Michael Dinneen)

An always heartwarming event will be a little less chilly and a lot more spicy this fall.

The annual Maddy’s Run 5-kilometer run and fun run event has been moved up a month (from November to October 20), which organizer Dana Johnson thinks could benefit athletes and spectators.

“I think it will be a little more comfortable for the people out there,” Johnson said of the race, which was first run in 2015 and featured some participants running in snow boots and parkas.

The inaugural race was the only time cancer-stricken Maddy “Strong” Brandl participated in the event named in her honor, but she did so with a smile. The 11-year-old Homestead Elementary student died the next spring, but the race first held as a fundraiser for her family lives on.

“She was just such a powerful kid. Even though she was going through her own struggles, she was able to think outside herself,” Johnson said. “To be able to do that at 9, 10, 11 years old is a rare gift.”

“It’s just really cool to see the connection we’re making with the community and that Maddy has not been forgotten,” Johnson said.

Maddy’s memory lives on in her friends, who recently created a video promoting the race. Complete with a blooper reel and highlights from past races, the video is both an advertisement for the race and a tribute to the spirted girl.

“One of Maddy’s last wishes was to continue with the Maddy Run and support other kids with cancer,” says one of her former classmates.

Click here to watch the full video.

All the proceeds from the event will go to benefit a pair of young children currently undergoing cancer treatment.

Each year’s race has attracted several hundred runners to Eagle River High School. Johnson is hoping the earlier start time will help draw a big crowd to the school at 8701 Yosemite Drive, where there will be plenty of post-race goodies to motivate athletes courtesy of Eagle River baker Lesley Rouwenhorst of Lesley’s Cakes.

“Maddy loved cupcakes and she loved Lesley’s, so Lesley always donates cupcakes to the runners every year,” Johnson said.

In addition to the 5-kilometer timed race, there’s also a 2.5-kilometer untimed fun run and a 0.7-kilometer fun run for young kids. Cost for the 5K is $25, with prizes awarded to the top three runners. The 2.5K fun run is $15 and the 0.7K kids’ race is $10. Each elementary school aged runner in the fun runs will receive a medal from Healthy Futures, one of the co-sponsors of the event.

Last year’s winners were Nick Carl and Riana Boonstra, who each set race records.

After the race, there will be a “Fill the Keg” fundraiser at Odd Man Rush brewing in Eagle River, where Johnson said Jalapeno’s will be running a taco feed featuring two tacos (plus rice and beans) for $13 — with half of the proceeds going to the fundraiser.

“We’re just trying to add a little bit more each year,” Johnson said.

A race map and other event information can be found on the race website at, where people can register for the race. There will also be a bib pick-up from 5 to 6:30 p.m. on Oct. 19, where Johnson said tickets will also be available for the taco feed.

Other sponsors this year include Strava, Moose’s Tooth, Military Movers, The Bicycle Shop, TeamOne, OMR, HealthWise, Johnston Construction & Maintenance, House of Bread, BP, Jalapeno’s and Sundog Media.

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