Man running Boston Marathon in memory of sister

On April 15, 30,000 runners from around the world will line up at the Boston Marathon start line, primed for their 26.2-mile journey.

Among them will be Libertyville resident Ben Youel, running in memory of his younger sister, Maggie, who died in June 2015 after surviving a stroke three years earlier. Since the Boston Marathon takes place in the spring, Youel trained through the harsh Chicago-area winter.

“Doing that isn’t super easy,” he said. “But it’s easier when I think of my sister and believe that I’m doing something that she would be proud of.”

Libertyville resident Ben Youel is running the Boston Marathon on April 15 in memory of his sister, Maggie.
Courtesy of Ben Youel

Maggie was a 20-year-old college sophomore and tennis player when she suffered a left-brain stroke that hospitalized her for a month. While in recovery, Maggie developed seizures, one of which took her life.

Youel has been running marathons for more than 10 years, but the race in Boston is something special.

After Maggie’s stroke, Youel discovered Tedy’s Team, a charity dedicated to raising stroke and heart disease awareness. Youel trained to qualify for the Boston race to get the opportunity to run with the organization, and in 2017 he reached that goal for the first time. Now, he has qualified a second time, and it’s becoming a tradition.

“When I was able to qualify again, I really couldn’t imagine doing the race without fundraising for this year,” Youel said.

Ben Youel poses in his “Tedy’s Team” jersey. This will be Youel’s second Boston Marathon race with the organization.
Courtesy of Ben Youel

According to Tedy’s Team Executive Director Elizabeth Tirrell, when people hear stroke survivor they often imagine an older person, usually a man. But Maggie’s story is more common than people think.

“We work with a lot of survivors who are very young, that are female as well as male,” Tirrell said. “It doesn’t care about your background. It is affecting people of all ages and all genders, and we want people to be aware of what the warning signs are so they can get assistance quickly.”

Tirrell and Youel stressed the importance of the acronym “BE FAST”: balance difficulties, eyesight changes, face drooping, arm weakness, speech difficulty and lastly, time to call 9-1-1.

In addition to raising awareness and funding for stroke research, Tedy’s Team provides direct financial assistance to stroke and heart disease survivors on the road to recovery.

While anyone can support the organization’s fundraising efforts, the runners on Tedy’s Team each year are those who personally have been affected by stroke or heart disease. This includes survivors, as well as people like Youel who run in memory or in honor of a loved one.

Tedy’s Team currently participates in the Boston and New York City marathons, and in October, the organization will be running the Chicago Marathon for the first time. While Youel doesn’t plan to race in Chicago this year, he said he will “almost certainly” run with Tedy’s Team in the future, raising funds and awareness closer to home.

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