The Wolfson Children’s Challenge celebrates our patients’ lives while benefitting the region’s only children’s hospital. Did you know that no child is ever turned away because of an inability to pay? That’s why Wolfson Children’s Hospital needs your help to ensure every child continues to receive the world-class care they need and deserve.
You can support the Wolfson Children’s Challenge by sponsoring the event, running the 55K Ultra Marathon, organizing a team for the 55K Ultra Marathon, running the individual 30K, participating in the 1-Mile Fun Run, fundraising or just taking part in the family-friendly event on January 27, 2018.
Since 1955, Wolfson Children’s Hospital has been a place of hope, second chances, and medical miracles for countless children and their families.
The inspiration for the Wolfson Children’s Challenge came from Paul Wilson, whose newborn son, Luke, was born with spina bifida, requiring surgical repair within hours of his birth. Paul hoped to raise $5,000 by running 55 miles. Instead, the event has yielded nearly $3 million in eight years.
The Wolfson Children’s Challenge is a celebration of kids’ lives, health and well-being. Every year, this symbolic event features 55 children, who are past and present patients at Wolfson Children’s, who share their inspiring stories. Here are two:
Harrison is six years old. With his blue glasses and his bright smile, he’s nothing if not charming and adorable. He’s outgoing, in love with Curious George, occasionally mischievous, always creative and certainly always silly. He is beloved amongst his peers in his kindergarten class and is a well-known patron in the many small businesses that pepper his Springfield neighborhood. And Harrison has Down syndrome.
Michelle and Tucker Gilliam were told their son had Down syndrome before he was born. “The diagnosis is scary,” Michelle said, “but now I know it’s not as hard as it seems.”
“Before he was born, I wrote a list of all the things he would never be able to do. It helped at the time, to set the expectations, to feel prepared,” Michelle explained. “I found that list when he was a little over two years old, and he had done more than half of the things I had listed when I was still pregnant.”
Harrison has been a patient with the Wolfson Children’s Hospital Rehabilitation program for years. He has grown by leaps and bounds since he began the program, graduating from physical therapy, and no longer needing occupational therapy. He still has speech therapy once a week, and his appointments are highly anticipated by both Harrison and his caregivers; the therapists at Wolfson Children’s Rehab have become like family, their appointments always bookended with a hug and a classic, huge Harrison grin.
“Down syndrome is definitely becoming more accepted,” explained Michelle, “and I attribute that to the therapy. Harrison is given all of the tools he needs to interact with his peers and to be a welcome part of our community.”
“We’re just so lucky to have Wolfson here in Jacksonville for our children, regardless of their abilities,” Michelle said. “It’s a special place, to be able to comfort not only children. but their parents as well. We’re truly grateful for all that Wolfson Children’s has done for our family.”
Gabe Rosario is as outgoing as they come. Known as “the greeter” at his preschool, he’s quick with a smile and always up for a chat. So, when his mood and personality drastically changed in August 2015, his mom, Mary Rosario, knew something was wrong.
“He was so quiet,” Mary explained. “Our ‘greeter’ was all of the sudden withdrawn and just different. I prayed all night about it, and decided to take him to the pediatrician the next day.”
With no other physical symptoms besides an increase in bed-wetting, Mary insisted that the pediatrician check Gabe’s blood sugar. When the results came back at more than 600, Mary and Gabe were sent right away to the Wolfson Children’s Hospital ER.
“The emergency doctor saved his life. They diagnosed Gabe with type 1 diabetes, and recognized that he was in the early stages of ketoacidosis, a serious complication from untreated diabetes,” Mary recalled. “I was in shock, but then the doctor walked over, put his arm around my shoulder, and told me it was going to be alright.”
With then-3-year-old Gabe’s unexpected diagnosis of type 1 diabetes, Mary felt her world shift, and her panic rise. “Gabe came into the ER crying and scared, but the nurses and staff swooped in and started caring for him like they had known him his whole life,” Mary remembered. “They brought a mountain of toys to distract him, and he calmed right down. While they kept him busy, the doctor was able to explain to me what was going on. Gabe wasn’t afraid because the medical staff not only took care of him physically, but loved him. And I wasn’t afraid because the doctor took the time to explain everything to me.”
Gabe spent a full week at Wolfson Children’s Hospital, where he recovered from ketoacidosis in between play sessions with the hospital staff. “The nurses would come in to play, or just to sit with him and watch a program. The quality of care, and the specialty of care for children in particular, was beyond compare,” explained Mary. “I feel so blessed that we live here in Jacksonville, where we have a dedicated children’s hospital.”
A preschool teacher in Jacksonville Beach, Mary has seen her fair share of children who have been patients at Wolfson Children’s. “Whether it’s for a spinal fusion or cancer, several students of mine have come through my classroom who are all here because of the life-saving care at Wolfson Children’s.”