Running for a Reason

When Jennifer and Clayton Brown found their daughter Aubrey having a seizure in the middle of the night, their world froze. The family from Sanford, Michigan, put everything on hold to search for answers to help their 12-year-old daughter. With seizures so severe they placed Aubrey in the ER, the Browns sought counsel from local neurologists and doctors. But Aubrey’s seizures continued and grew worse. The unexpected nature of her condition left Aubrey, a competitive gymnast, unable to perform, and the family grew weary.

In the summer of 2014, Aubrey experienced a seizure that lasted 30 minutes, a particularly long and dangerous attack. Jennifer and Clayton turned to local resources to find answers, but the hospital had a six month wait list. With their Michigan contacts tapped out, Jennifer called a Cleveland hospital and set up an appointment for the coming week. The family began their six-hour drive to Cleveland on a crisp September day.

The pediatric epileptologist diagnosed Aubrey with cortical dysplasia on her right frontal lobe, the cause of her grand mal seizures. Aubrey was admitted to the hospital for a week so doctors could video and EEG monitor Aubrey’s nightly seizures.

With hotel expenses and hospital bills piling up, a nurse told the Browns about the Ronald McDonald House of Cleveland. At the House, they found a warm and welcoming environment where they could get much needed rest and food.  It was a place where they could take care of themselves and, in turn, take better care of Aubrey. 

The Ronald McDonald House took us in and told us we could stay as long as we needed. We were so stressed out, but we knew we had a safe haven at the House. You can’t put a price on that.
— Jennifer Brown

The House also helped them put their own experience in perspective. Clayton met a nine-year-old guest who also had frequent seizures and was awaiting a hemispherectomy to treat his epilepsy. Despite his medical challenges, the boy greeted each day with an enduring sense of optimism.

After many more visits to Cleveland for treatment over the next two years, doctors were finally able to identify a medication successful in reducing Aubrey’s nightly seizures from 10-15 per night to zero. With the new treatment Aubrey is now participating in competitive cheer and pole vaulting and getting a better night’s sleep, which has helped her excel in school.

Thankful to the Ronald McDonald House for providing for her and her family while in Cleveland, Jennifer wanted to give back, but was unsure how. A marathon runner, she had a serendipitous encounter in August with a man running the North Country Trail in Michigan on behalf of Ronald McDonald House. Jennifer was inspired and decided to run the Detroit Marathon in October 2016 to raise funds and awareness for the House.

Running for the Ronald McDonald House gave me a cause to run for, which helped give me focus and meaning when times became tough during my training.

Jennifer had her Creekers for a Cause, a group of philanthropic youth at the high school where she is a counselor, get involved by hosting a “Rise to Shine” campaign to collect wish list items and pull tabs for the House. Jennifer also raised more than $900 in donations from family and friends in support of her run. After a tough but successful Detroit Marathon run, she, Clayton, and Aubrey visited the House to drop off the donations and share their journey with volunteers and staff.

In an effort to continue to give thanks for the stability the House provided them when caring for Aubrey, Jennifer has registered to run on Team Ronald McDonald House Cleveland for the Chicago Marathon on October 8. When asked why she decided to run again on behalf of the House, Jennifer put it simply, “I have a strong desire to give back to the House and contribute in a way that I know how. Also, I look forward to seeing others on Team Ronald McDonald House and being a part of a group that is proud to run for such a great cause.”