ST. CHARLES, Ill. (CBS) — You might wonder what drives someone to run 20 consecutive Chicago Marathons.
Could it be bragging rights? The glory of the finish line?READ MORE: New Illinois Laws To Protect Sex Crime Victims' Privacy Take Effect Jan. 1
No, for one St. Charles woman, it’s not either of those things. Instead, the motivator is her little niece, born with spina bifida.
CBS 2’s Tim McNicholas introduced us Monday morning to a girl who is overcoming major hurdles.
“I ran Boston a couple times I ran St. Louis,” said Mandy Youker. “This’ll actually be my 20th in a row, Chicago Marathon.”
Running is about overcoming obstacles and facing challenges head-on. But Mandy Youkre didn’t just learn that from marathons.
Her most valuable lesson came from her little niece Aggie. It was a lesson that started when Aggie’s mom went in for an ultrasound.
“Aggie was diagnosed with spina bifida,” said Aggie’s mom. Becky Rupnick. “The baby, in utero, their spine fails to close.”
At first, the family was overwhelmed – wondering what to do and where to turn. Then, they connected with the Illinois Spina Bifida Association.
As Aggie’s grandma, Pam Ziegler, explained, it is a group that helps spina bifida patients live fulfilling lives.READ MORE: Chicago Weather: Cloudy Overnight With Snow Flurries For Some
“It is so, so important to hear from other parents that are new to the diagnoses that have been there,” Ziegler said.
Then, the family learned that Illinois Spina Bifida Association sponsors runners in the Chicago Marathon.
“Mandy, when she decided to run the Marathon… It just meant the world to me,” Rupnick said.
Since that 2015 diagnosis, Youker has raised about 20 thousand dollars for the ISBA. She often trains with her own daughter, Grace, who was born in 2018 with Down syndrome.
“I try to think about something each mile – be it Aggie, be it Grace, be it another family that we’ve encountered,” Youker said.
“And now that we share the bond of being parents with disabilities – it’s just so powerful,” added Rupnick.
Youker’s goal is to raise about %5,000 this year. So far, she is at about $400.
“It’s a little bit lower than normal,” she said.
And that is another challenge. But just like Aggie, she’s not backing down.MORE NEWS: View Live Radar
If you’d like to help with Youker’s mission, click here.