Meet Kid HERO Finn!

Finn Sitting on Fence Smiling

Finn, a 2020 Kid HERO Crew member

When our son, Finn was just a few months old, I was reading bedtime stories with our daughter (Finn’s big sister), Frankie. A thunder storm was booming outside. In many ways, the storm reflected our lives at the time – we were trying to wrap our heads around having two very young children, while also trying to understand the medical complications Finn faced associated with having Down syndrome; there was a steady storm of appointments, unknowns and learning that we were doing our best to manage. 

As I closed the last book for the evening, a huge thunder clap boomed outside. Here is the exchange between Frankie (20 months) and I that followed: 

Frankie: What’s that, Daddy (wide eyed)?
Me: It’s just thunder, Love. It will stop soon. 
Frankie: I’m brave, Dad. 
Me: I know.
Frankie: I’m not afraid of anything.

She then rolled over and promptly fell asleep with the storm crashing outside her bedroom window. Maeghan tells our kids the same thing every night before bed; you are brave, kind, smart and strong. My conversation with Frankie that night helped me understand that our kids are listening to and watching what we do, all the time. In that moment, I knew that we had to be brave examples for Finn if we ever expected him to show the courage necessary to overcome the challenges that would surely be placed before him. Ultimately, we want what every parent wants for their child; for Finn to be independent, happy and make a positive impact on the world around him. 

When Mae was 10 weeks into her second pregnancy, we learned that our child would be born with Down syndrome. In that moment, we did not feel courageous at all. We were scared of the unknowns and mourned some perfect life that we had anticipated for our baby. We feared that our family, friends and community would not accept our son because of his disability and that we would be isolated as a family.  

Finn and his older sister, Frankie

Turns out, we were afraid of all the wrong things. Finn is loved, welcomed and supported by his community. What we did not anticipate or adequately prepare for, were some of the medical complications connected to Down syndrome. While we were aware that in addition to intellectual and developmental disabilities, children with Down syndrome are at an increased risk for certain health issues, we also knew that every child is unique with their very own strengths and difficulties.

We quickly found out what this all meant for Finn. We have spent countless hours at CHaD for any number of conditions including Finn’s congenital heart defect, hypothyroidism, hypotonia, sleep apnea and digestive problems. This means visits with pediatric cardiology, endocrinology, and gastroenterology, to name a few. Our visits have ranged from a routine one-hour appointment to an extended stay, thanks to a lung infection when Finn was 18 months old. We know these visits will continue and Finn will have a lifelong relationship with ChaD – because of his heart defect, he will see a pediatric cardiologist for the rest of his life. While hospital visits can be challenging, we are grateful that CHaD is our hospital home base.  

Before Finn, Maeghan and I had very few interactions with hospitals or the medical world outside of check-ups and garden-variety sickness. During Finn’s initial appointments, we were guarded and apprehensive; constantly bracing ourselves for bad news. But what we discovered quickly is the staff, volunteers, doctors and nurses at CHaD bring a secret ingredient to how they care for children – the ability to make families feel strong and courageous during very scary, vulnerable moments. 

I have a tendency to ask LOTS of questions when I’m anxious or afraid; it usually buys me some time to work through a troubling thought. As someone who received a mediocre grade in high school anatomy and physiology, and has virtually no medical training, the answers we received were often confusing to me (Mae’s yoga background and training are a strength in this department). If we didn’t take notes, I rarely remembered what the doctors and nurses told us. But we always remembered exactly how we felt walking out of a visit to CHaD; listened to, respected and supported. We were also able to advocate for our son and felt that we were doing so in a safe place. The CHaD community always made us feel courageous in the most difficult moments. 

Finn with his parents when he was our 2019 Kid HERO

Finn is now 4 years old, and is as brave, strong, kind and smart as they come. He shows us how to be courageous every day; building friendships at school, climbing to the top of any playground and engaging in therapy to develop his communication and motor skills. He is bringing us a life full of light and inspiration. We attribute his confidence and positive attitude at medical appointments to his experiences at CHaD. He arrives at every appointment with a smile on his face, pulls up his shirt for the doctors and nurses to listen to his heart and blows everyone kisses before we head home. 

Finn and his dad, Luke, smiling in the hospital

Finn and his dad this June

We still have our scares; Finn had heart surgery on June 25, 2020. Finn was freely giving out hugs and blowing kisses all the way into the operating room, inspiring us to find the courage to manage the weeks of his recovery. As parents, we may have to overcome challenges associated with Finn’s medical needs in the future. But we look to our son for inspiration and tap into our bravery bank because we are consistently surrounded by genuine kindness and caring that allows us to transcend the fears we may face in the future.

We know every child at CHaD has unique health challenges. We also know one thing is consistent; the staff, doctors and nurses make every child and every family feel courageous when they need it most. They understand when a family is struggling – maybe having a tough day because your child has been in the hospital for weeks and all you want for them is to be on the playground. At CHaD, they also understand that the cure for any illness lies not only in surgery and medications, but also in positive relationships and community support. 

Finn and his family at the 2018 CHaD HERO

This is our fourth year running the CHaD HERO for our team, Finn 321. By participating in the CHaD HERO virtually with our family and friends, we honor the CHaD community. We will always remember how CHaD makes us feel in the face of medical challenges.  Our hope is that every family’s visit to CHaD is like ours – filled with compassion, kindness and, of course, courage. — Luke, Finn’s dad

Sign up today to join Finn and his family in participating in this year’s virtual CHaD HERO at

A CHaD HERO from the Start

Joanna Miller before, during, and after the 2006 CHaD Outrun the Sun Half Marathon. CHaD Outrun the Sun eventually expanded and became the CHaD HERO.

When I was 16 years old and a sophomore in high school I was struck with a rare neurological condition that made me incredibly weak. I ended up at CHaD after my parents came home from work one evening to find me sitting on the front steps as I had been unable to turn the key in the lock to get in the front door after school. I was a strong, healthy, three-sport athlete who suddenly could barely climb a set of stairs, who couldn’t pull a brush through my hair, and who couldn’t lift a glass of water with one hand. I was profoundly weakened, with no reflexes anywhere in my body. This was incredibly scary for me (and now that I am a parent myself I can only imagine how scary it was for my mom and dad as well), but the doctors, nurses, residents, and phlebotomists immediately set to work trying to figure out what was going on. I was an inpatient at CHaD for five days, during which time I received infusions of human immunoglobulin, which for me felt like a miracle. By the time I was released from the hospital I was 85% back to normal and within a few weeks I was back to regular strength. That fall we found out that my condition was chronic, and thus I became an ongoing patient.

Joanna and Dr. Richard Nordgren at the 2007 CHaD Outrun the Sun Half Marathon

I stayed with my pediatric neurologist, Dr. Richard Nordgren, until there was no way I could still be classified as “pediatric.” With his care I was able to resume a normal life, though I had to have infusions every 5 to 8 weeks for the next 22 years. This past December I was declared in remission, and as of this writing, in three days it will have been a year since my last infusion.

Joanna receiving her fundraising award in 2006.

When I found out about the first CHaD Half, it was less than two months prior to the race and I had never run more than a 10K race in my life. None-the-less, I was eager to give back for all that CHaD had given me, so I signed up and started running! That year I was the second highest fundraiser, and I knew I wanted to keep working to give back to CHaD.

Since 2006, I have participated in every single CHaD HERO event. I haven’t run the half marathon since 2010 (my daughter was born in 2011 and I pushed her in the stroller at 5 weeks old with the threat of Hurricane Irene bearing down on us), but this year for the 15th CHaD HERO, I’m once again buckling down to train for 13.1 miles. It will be hard to get through all those miles leading up to the race, and I will miss the atmosphere on the Green on race day as we’ll all be doing our own virtual races. But, I hope this year that I’ll be able to break $50,000 total dollars raised over the past 15 years for CHaD!

— Joanna Miller, former CHaD patient & soon to be 15-time CHaD HERO participant

Joanna at the 2019 CHaD HERO

Tips for Hiking With Your Dog

Brittany, CHaD HERO HQ teammate, hiking with her dog, Ulysses

Remember to bring your dog’s leash and lots of water

I recently went on a hike and my friend brought along his dog Lacy.  It was such a positive experience, both for the dog and for us, that I thought I would share some great tips for you to consider as you train and participate in this year’s virtual CHaD HERO!

The hike was long and vertical; one of the Adirondack peaks at almost 14 miles round trip with an elevation gain of over 3,000 feet.  Not for the faint of heart, man or beast!  My new dog friend, Lacy, is a yellow lab and despite being 10 years old, she is fortunately in incredible shape. 

View of lake with mountains in background

View prior to the start of the elevation gain

While leashes weren’t required, Lacy’s owner had one just in case there were any close encounters that necessitated the need.  It’s important to be respectful of the trail system’s leash requirements wherever you choose to hike.

Another pro tip: bring doggie bags to clean up as you go!

Lacy and us humans quickly got into a groove as we began our ascent. When we stopped and rested, Lacy stopped and rested.  When we were thirsty and drank water, Lacy’s owner provided a pop-up water dish and made sure she was hydrated as well.  When we broke for lunch, Lacy ate her lunch; healthy protein snacks just like us.  We even found a spot on top with shade, so she could duck in out of the heat.

Lacy, the dog, in a shady spot with her collapsible water dish

Lacy in a shady spot beside her collapsible water dish

Two things to consider if you do bring your dog: the terrain and the capability of your animal.  This mountain has a long rock face towards the top, which became treacherous at times.  Lacy and her owner trusted each other implicitly and she allowed herself to be lifted up and over some of the tough cliffs.  She even had to be lifted down off a few as well.  No small feat with a full-size Lab; I even needed some lifting up and over rocks as well!

Rocky outcropping at the top

You might also want to think about the personality of your dog.  Whenever we did encounter another group of hikers with or without dogs, Lacy didn’t bark, didn’t chase, and wasn’t threatening.  She was calm, cool, and collected, which I greatly appreciated.  No need to turn the day into a damper with a dog fight in the middle of the woods.

View from the top of the Adirondacks

A view of the Adirondacks from the top

We united again as one when we passed a gorgeous pond on the way down, with 1 mile still to go.  We all immediately jumped in, with Lacy gently swimming around to each of us as if to check and make sure we were okay.  And how could we not be.  A gorgeous day… a huge hike… great friends… a great dog… and the cool waters of the Adirondacks to help us for the final push home. 

Lake with mountains in background

A view of the lake and the Adirondacks

One thing Lacy’s owner forgot?  A towel to lay across the back seat in case of muddy paws. After that swim, Lacy had a ball rolling around and making muddy paw prints all over the inside of the car.

Remember to abide by all Local and State guidelines in terms of pets and the use of leashes. Hiking in the heat can be dangerous for your dog so be sure to check out this article as you prepare for any hot weather hiking.

Register for this year’s CHaD HERO event, grab a trail map, plot your day, and get out and enjoy the beauty that surrounds us all.  And bring your dog too!

— Kat McQuade, CHaD HERO Hike Committee Chair and outdoor adventuring enthusiast

Meet Kid HERO Eryn!

Eryn, 2020 Kid HERO Crew member

“When I was 3 years old I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at the Children’s Hospital at Dartmouth-Hitchcock (CHaD). I don’t remember much about my diagnosis, but I do remember how amazing the nurses and staff were. They did their best to make me feel at home. A few months after I was diagnosed, I went to my first ever diabetes support group at CHaD. It was there I was first introduced to the diabetes community. I learned how to embrace my diabetes and that I was capable of everything I wanted to do. It was through this group that I was introduced to ADA Camp Carefree. Camp was where I embraced diabetes. It if weren’t for CHaD, I may have never reached my full potential as a diabetic. I learned to love my diabetes.” – Eryn, Kid HERO Crew member

Eryn playing field hockey and basketball

Check out Eryn’s team, Eryn’s Avengers, here! To register and join a team, visit and be a hero for our 95,000 CHaD kids.

Meet Kid HERO Owen!

Owen swinging on a swing

Owen, 2020 Kid HERO Crew member

“Owen’s story is one of a fighter, a triplet, and a very small, premature baby.  Owen and his brothers, Cooper and Silas, were born at 24 weeks and 2 days, almost 4 months too soon, on July 18, 2018.  Owen weighed in at 1 pound 10 oz and 12 inches long, the biggest of the three boys. Each brother entered this world crying and breathing on their own, however, not long after birth, Owen was placed on a ventilator for respiratory support. Within 15 hours all three boys were on full respiratory support and started their fight for their lives in the Intensive Care Nursery (ICN) at CHaD.  

Owen, Cooper and Silas in the ICN

Owen and his brothers, Silas and Cooper, in the ICN

In the next 24 hours, Owen was struggling the most of the three, already having his first of three chest tubes placed and a head ultrasound performed to assess for a bleed in his brain.  Yet, it was his brother Cooper who unfortunately lost his battle less than two days after coming into this world, due to his premature lungs.  Thanks to the competent Medical Staff, compassionate Nursing, and dedicated Respiratory Therapists, Owen was held for the first time by his mother only hours after Cooper passed away, allowing the importance of Kangaroo Care (skin-to-skin) to assist in his recovery.  Owen and his parents then said goodbye to their beloved Silas six days later, after he battled many complexities of prematurity and his lungs could no longer support his small body.  

Owen spent the next 168 days combating almost every common condition of a 24-week-old micro-preemie in the ICN.  He survived a brain bleed which led to fluid build up on the brain (hydrocephalus) and brain surgery before his due date, three chest tubes placed to assist with collapsed lungs,  multiple blood transfusions, suspected infections treated with multiple rounds of antibiotics, and weeks of being placed on paralytics to avoid fighting his ventilator support. Finally, due to an inability to extubate successfully, Owen had his last surgery, which included a tracheostomy so he could breathe independently with a ventilator while also working to develop normally as a baby.  Owen’s tracheostomy surgery was paired with surgeries for a G-tube placement, as eating by mouth was and is still difficult for Owen, as well as bilateral hernia repairs, again all occurring BEFORE Owen was even due to be born.  

Jessica, Owen's mom, reading Owen a story

Owen’s mom, Jessica, reading to Owen

Owen's parents and Owen celebrating his last day in the ICN before he came home.

Owen and his parents celebrate his last day in the ICN!

After 174 long days, on January 8, 2019, Owen’s parents finally got to carry their six-month-old baby, and a car full of medical equipment, out of the ICN for the first time. In the next two months, Owen was weaned off of all oxygen support.  Within six months he was trialing time off of the ventilator’s pressure support, and by October 2019 he could breathe on his own 24 hours a day.  While still on the ventilator Owen lived the life of a normal baby, learning to roll, loving to swing, and lighting up everyone’s world with his smile.  Off the ventilator, but still with a Trach and G-Tube, Owen has learned how to crawl and now walk, he loves eating out (he eats 60% of his food by mouth), and he even cheered his mother on as she finished the CHaD HERO Half Marathon in Fall of 2019 — fittingly he sported a full Superman outfit.  

Owen in his superman costume at the 2019 HERO

Owen and his dad at the 2019 CHaD HERO

Owen’s journey is not over, as having a Trach, G-tube and premature lungs puts him at serious risk for illness and regression, which he has battled this spring.  Growing and eating are not easy for Owen and he has yet to speak his first words due to having a Trach, so development is slow and will continue to be a challenge throughout his early childhood.  However, Owen continues to overcome each obstacle put in his way, and despite all of the challenges he continues to smile and remind us all that life is incredibly precious.  

Owen and his parents standing on a dock by water

Owen and his parents

So Owen is a HERO, yes, he is idealized for his outstanding achievements, his amazing feats and warrior-like qualities. But, Owen also represents all CHaD HEROES; he overcomes and smiles through it all, not just for himself, but for his brothers, and all babies and children who have had to, are currently, or who will have to, fight for their lives.” — Jessica, Owen’s mom

Owen in his Superman shirt

Join Owen and his family in this year’s virtual CHaD HERO! You can run, walk, hike, bike, or choose your own Virtual Quest activity to support CHaD kids like Owen.

Visit to register.

Meet Kid HERO Shannon!

Shannon in front of statue

Shannon, 2020 Kid HERO Crew member

Shannon was our 2017 Kid HERO and she’s back this year to join the Kid HERO Crew!

“Shannon is 14 and has been a CHaD patient since she was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis at seven months old.  She is going into 8th grade in Proctor, VT.  She loves sports.  She plays soccer, basketball, softball, swimming and cross country running.

Shannon at CHaD

In 2019, she ran at least one 5K a month for 10 months straight.  She is looking forward to running her next CHaD HERO 5K to see if she can beat her personal best that she set last year of 26:45. One day she hopes to run the CHaD HERO Half Marathon. We hope that the care Shannon receives at CHaD can support her in achieving that goal!” – Shannon’s mom

Shannon and her mom at the 2016 CHaD HERO

To support Shannon in reaching her fundraising goals, visit Team Shannon. Over the past five years, Shannon has raised over $1,100 for CHaD kids and programs. Thank you, Shannon!

Learn more about this year’s virtual CHaD HERO at Registration re-launches on July 13.

Meet Kid HERO Jasper!

Photo of Jasper smiling, 2020 Kid HERO Crew member
Jasper, 2020 Kid HERO Crew member

“Jasper became a CHaD patient at birth when he needed the services of the NICU. He had his first surgery when he was barely a day old. His rare birth defects made him unique and it seemed he was visited by nearly every department during his two-week NICU stay.

Jasper jumping over a hay bail

While we’ve been told we could benefit from care at Boston Children’s, we’ve never had a reason to leave CHaD. We feel so blessed to have this hospital in our backyard. We really feel like the doctors and nurses see our family as an important part of the decision making, really listening to the intuition we have as parents.

Jasper smiling at a kitchen table

Over the first few years of his life, Jasper had multiple surgeries and inpatient stays and we always felt right at home at CHaD. Many of the staff feel like extended family. We are thankful for Jasper’s doctors and nurses who have taken extra time and care to troubleshoot his unique physiology. Jasper hasn’t had to visit CHaD in the last four years outside of routine check-ups. We know there will be times in the future when he’ll need more specialty care and feel confident CHaD can fulfill our needs. CHaD doctors and nurses have enabled him to live a fairly normal life through various surgical interventions. He can get on with the joy of being a kid.”

— Jacob & Leigh, Jasper’s parents

Jasper crossing the finish line at the 2016 CHaD HERO
Kid HERO Jasper at the 2016 CHaD HERO

Jasper was our very first official Kid HERO in 2016 and we’re so happy to have him back this year as a part of the Kid HERO Crew! Register today at to join Jasper and his family for this year’s event.

Meet Kid HERO Charlotte!

Charlotte, a 2020 Kid HERO Crew member

“Charlotte was four years old when she was diagnosed with hypertension of unknown origin. When our PCP noticed her elevated blood pressures, they sent us to CHaD Nephrology, where Charlotte was followed closely with lab work, tests, scans and weekly follow ups when she had medication changes. The Nephrology team members were always so kind and made Charlotte the focus of the appointments. They spoke to her in a way that made her still feel confident and normal, during periods of time when we were all still worried and trying to figure her diagnosis out.

Charlotte at CHaD

The unknown seemed so scary and watching your child be scared and afraid is horrible. The Child Life department was helpful with each blood draw or scan she needed, and there seemed to be so many at first. They were also so helpful with comforting us (Mom and Dad) after we would have to leave her in CHaD Pain Free. After a few years of trying to lower her blood pressures, we repeated her MRI and a narrowing of her descending aorta was found, which led us to consult with Boston Children’s Hospital. Charlotte was officially diagnosed with Mid Aortic Syndrome and Renovascular Hypertension in 2019 and she takes four blood pressure medications a day.

Charlotte continues to be doing well and is routinely followed by CHaD Nephrology for blood pressure checks, cardiac echos and kidney ultrasounds. At some point in her early teen years, Charlotte will need bypass surgery, but for now she continues to be a spunky, smart and charismatic 9 year old.”

– Liz, Charlotte’s mom

Charlotte and her brother at the 2019 CHaD HERO

Join Charlotte and her family in participating in the 2020 CHaD HERO! Learn more and register at

Introducing the Kid HERO Crew!

Each year, we typically have one Kid HERO who is the face and heart of that year’s CHaD HERO, but for this special 15th anniversary, we wanted to mix things up. Introducing the Kid HERO Crew!

Our Kid HERO Crew is made up of ten outstanding kids who will be sharing their CHaD stories, creating art and words of encouragement for top fundraisers and teams, and kicking off the HERO on October 18. Kid HEROES help us highlight the importance of our fundraising efforts to support CHaD’s critical programs and services.

We can’t thank these kids enough for giving back to CHaD and sharing their CHaD experience with our HERO community.

Please welcome our Kid HERO Crew and look for their photos, videos, and CHaD stories soon!


Jasper V.

Age 9

First official Kid HERO in 2016


Charlotte U.

Age 9

Inspiration for Team Unstoppable Uffords


Avery S.

Age 7

Inspiration for Team brAVERY

2018 Kid HERO

Check out Avery’s dad’s blog post from 2018 here.


Eryn R.

Age 14

Likes to play field hockey and basketball.


Tristan C.

Age 7

Likes baseball, skiing, swimming and Legos.


Lily W.

Age 14

Likes arts & crafts, basketball and music.


Owen Z.

Age 2

Read Owen’s mom’s 2019 HERO blog post here.


Shannon W.

Age 13

Inspiration for Team Shannon

2017 Kid HERO


Finn W.

Age 4

Inspiration for Team Finn 321

2019 Kid HERO

Here’s a link to Finn’s dad’s blog post last year.


Abigail D.

Age 8

Likes to swim, sing and read.

An EPIC thank you to our CHaD HEROES

FOS on the green - BD

The 2019 CHaD HERO raised over $830,000 for Children’s Hospital at Dartmouth-Hitchcock (CHaD) kids and families. What a HEROIC day! 3,100 participants joined us to run, walk, hike, and bike to raise money for vital services and programs at CHaD.

Cam's Finish

HERO Highlights:

  • This year, 400 HEROES saw their fundraising boosted by a very generous matching gift from The Jack and Dorothy Byrne Foundation. Adult HERO participants (24+) received a 1:1 match for dollars raised above their fundraising minimums and youth HERO participants (23 and under) received a 2:1 match for dollars raised above their fundraising minimums. These 400 HEROES generated over $300,000 once their match was added to their total.
  • More than 300 volunteers helped make this year’s CHaD HERO a successful and safe event. Plus, they raised $68,000 for CHaD!
  • Our participants ran, walked, hike, and biked 14,000 miles combined.
  • We had more than 100 corporate and gift-in-kind partners who went above and beyond for this year’s CHaD HERO.


Top Fundraisers


Our official 2019 Kid HERO, Finn, is a brave, curious and very active 3-year-old who loves school, his sisters and trucks of all kinds. Finn had the honor of kicking off the 5K walk and hike and sending off participants with his famous high fives!

Kid HERO and his dad

Finn is a regular patient at CHaD due to complications related to Down syndrome, including a congenital heart defect. He will see a pediatric cardiologist for his entire life. While these hospital visits can be challenging, his parents have been grateful for this connection to CHaD and were inspired to create Team Finn 321 in 2018. This year, they raised more than $10,000 and had more than 50 members who came out to run, walk, hike, and bike with Finn. We can’t wait to see what 2020 brings! Read the full blog post about Finn HERE.

“The nurses, doctors and staff at CHaD bring a special ingredient to their level of care – the ability to make us all feel strong and courageous during those very scary moments when our children and families are exceptionally vulnerable. By participating in the CHaD HERO this year, we honor the overwhelming support and love of the CHaD community.” – Luke, Finn’s dad




Your fundraising efforts help fund critical services that support CHaD patients and families. These many non-billable services not only help CHaD kids when they are in pediatric intensive care or managing chronic illnesses, but are also vital to the general well-being of children and their futures.

2019 Unrestricted Funds Pie Chart

The chart (above) illustrates how unrestricted funds raised through CHaD community events, including the CHaD HERO, were allocated in 2019.

Below are a few programs that directly benefit from your fundraising efforts:

  • The Child Life Program provides emotional and developmental support to 12,000 kids annually during outpatient procedures, surgeries, difficult visits and extended hospital stays.
  • Molly’s Place at the CHaD Family Center is a soothing space with an engaging activity area for children, offering health information and resources, general support and access to financial assistance for families.
  • Complex Care Program assists children with two or more chronic conditions that need to be treated by multiple pediatric specialists. Their primary goals are intended to reduce emergency room visits, prevent or shorten hospital stays, and simplify medical care and meet families’ goals and provide satisfaction.

A huge thank you to our participants, volunteers, sponsors and donors for your HEROIC support! Check out our 2019 CHaD HERO Annual Report for details about YOUR IMPACT.


Save the date – the 15th Annual CHaD HERO will take place on October 18th, 2020. Registration opens Tuesday, April 28th – National Superhero Day! To learn more, visit: