Elizabeth Sheeren (class of 2018) has multiple autoimmune diseases, and her family describes her medical journey as "going through a storm for many years."
Until the beginning of 6th grade, musical theater was Elizabeth's life. She was an actress in both Grosse Pointe Theatre Main Stage and Youth on Stage, and also a member of the Michigan Opera Theatre's Children's Chorus. But by 2011, her health began to decline and she was no longer able to attend school regularly or participate in activities. Due to the incredible support of her Brownell and South teachers, she was able to stay on track with a hybrid of in-person and homebound instruction, often completing her school year throughout the summer months. Unfortunately, her health took a turn for the worse in the Fall of 2017, and she had to spend more than seven months in the hospital, missing most of her senior year at South – including spending graduation in the hospital.
Her sister Claire (class of 2020) still vividly recalls the night the Run, Walk N Roll 5K was born. Elizabeth was in the hospital, and Claire sat at her kitchen table with a friend, feeling completely lost about how to help her sister. It was devastating to Claire to see Elizabeth suffering so much, and missing everything she had worked so hard to hold on to. She wanted to help. So in 2019, during her junior year at South, Claire led the first Run, Walk N Roll 5K. Now it's an annual event that raises money for the Palliative Care Department at C. S. Mott Children's Hospital in honor of Elizabeth. The Palliative Care Department helps patients and families battling complex and chronic diseases maintain a good quality of life. Claire shares that the palliative care team has been the driving force in Elizabeth's care.
It was also important to Claire that this event be inclusive so that people in wheelchairs and adaptive strollers could also participate. In its first year, the event raised over $46,000 and had over 550 participants. The Sheeren family was utterly amazed by the outpouring of support.
In 2020, they planned to have another large event, but because of Covid, they had to pivot to a virtual fundraiser – and they still raised over $39,000! Then in 2021, they held a hybrid event with an in-person 5K that started and ended on the block where the Sheeren family lives. There was also an option to participate virtually. People were running, walking and rolling on three continents and in over 30 countries!
The GPPSS Difference
Claire tells us she is thankful for all of her teachers for their support, but especially Stephen Zaranek (“Coach Z”) at Grosse Pointe South. She ran cross country and track under his leadership throughout high school, and he has been instrumental in making Run, Walk N Roll a reality. Coach Z was the first person Claire talked to about the event in 2019, and he has been there every year to help with the race logistics and planning. This event would not be possible without him.
When asked what advice she has for this year's graduating seniors, Claire offered, "I would encourage students not to be afraid to have big dreams and set big goals, and to persevere to achieve them."
Visit the Run, Walk N Roll 5k website to participate in this year's event or to make a donation.
Want to Nominate Someone to be Profiled?
As part of this year's celebration of 100 years of educational excellence at Grosse Pointe Public Schools, we are partnering with the district to profile 100 alumni from our illustrious first century.
Are you or someone you know interested in being profiled in a story that will be distributed district-wide across various social media and news platforms?
Start by nominating yourself or someone you know here.