Purple Community Blog

22 May 2018

What will you run for?

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Can you believe it? We have already filled our 2018 Purple Community Team Hope teams for both the Bank of America Chicago Marathon and TCS New York City Marathon!

It’s crazy to think that only a few months ago over 30+ participants ran with Team Hope on behalf of Van Andel Institute’s (VAI) Purple Community in the 2017 Chicago Marathon. Each of these outstanding runners had a personal and deep connection with VAI and why they chose to run. This is what helped drive their participation and gave them the strength to keep going.

Running a marathon can be one of the most challenging tasks both physically, and mentally. It makes you push, drive and motivate yourself in ways you may not have thought possible. It’s said that if you keep a goal or reason in mind it can help motivate and push you through the toughest and most difficult runs.

As we wrap up the 2017 Chicago Marathon Team Hope and head into 2018, we want to take a look back and see what a few of our past team members ran for.

Chelsea, Eric and their son Arie.

Chelsea Westra ran in memory of her late husband Eric, who passed away from osteosarcoma. By focusing on her goal of completing the marathon to celebrate Eric’s life, Chelsea pushed through her hatred of running and crossed the finished line. Supporting Chelsea was her family, friends and her sister Hilary who joined her during the marathon. Chelsea and her amazing team are behind the Eagles for Eric events and continue to blow us away with all of their dedication and hard work raising funds to support osteosarcoma research at
Van Andel Institute.

George Sharpe Jr. and his family.

George Sharpe, Jr. ran in honor of his father who is living with Parkinson’s disease. This diagnosis has motivated the Sharpe family
to not only join Team Hope, but go above and beyond to support VAI over the past several years. The Sharpe’s are driven to do whatever they can to raise funds for and awareness of the Institute’s Parkinson’s disease research, and we love them for it. George has even rejoined Team Hope for the 2018 Chicago Marathon, along with his sister Nicole! Go Sharpe’s, go!

Aaron DeVos and a friend.

Aaron DeVos ran on behalf of his grandparents, wife, mom and mother-in-law — all of whom have been impacted by cancer. While training for the 2017 marathon, Aaron also discovered that his good friend had been diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer. This drove Aaron’s passion for making a difference even more, and helped him run across the finish line in Chicago. Aaron will be joining forces with Team Hope again this year to race in the TCS New York City Marathon!


Each Team Hope participant had their own source of motivation and drive to raise awareness of and funds for the vital research happening at VAI. We’re thrilled to say that thanks to these incredible runners we were able to generate over $53,000 for cancer and Parkinson’s disease research!

Thank you, Team Hope 2017, for all of your hard work, dedication and support for Van Andel Institute. We cannot wait to see what 2018 has in store for Team Hope as they represent Purple Community in both Chicago and New York City this fall!

What will you run for if you join 2018 Team Hope? To learn more about the registration process for the Chicago Marathon, click here. To learn more about the application process for the TCS NYC Marathon, click here.