#WhyWednesday- Running for a Reason

This week’s #WhyWednesday is brought to you by one of our team captains for the 2019 Pittsburgh Marathon, Heather Grace Thomas. 

“Congratulations! Your Race Entry is Confirmed!”

Everyone has that one friend that convinces you to do everything. You just can’t say no. Or maybe they just won’t LET YOU say no. I have that friend. She’s actually one of my best friends, which is why I decided to join the charity team of her choice last year for the 2018 Pittsburgh Marathon – our first half marathon together. Between the training, the eating (YAS), and the fundraising, I was also actively learning about Cystic Fibrosis and its impact on thousands of children and adults across the nation, but also the world. I remember wanting to lay on my couch instead of getting up to go on my training runs. Pulling up the multiple stories and videos from our families affected by CF always motivated me. My butt got up and I was out the door! They fueled every single step.

Fast forward to race day: a dreary Sunday morning, brightened by sideline cheers, helpful volunteers, motivational music, and thousands of determined runners. 3..2..1 and our team was off in our matching neon yellow shirts. You couldn’t miss us if you tried! Throughout the race I noticed many other T-shirts. Pictures, quotes, names of individuals and “for a cures” surrounded me. As I ran, I learned the various reasons why so many others were running. With many different charities participating in the Run For A Reason program, I was able to learn a piece of their journey, and who they were here for today.

I had a mission to carry out for those who I was representing and I realized THOUSANDS of others were on that same mission. Many of the participants ran for someone or something much bigger than the medal at the finish line or a PR. As I finished the race, I looked down at my sneakers and thought, “Sorry feet, but this definitely won’t be your last time doing this thing.”

Fast forward to the BEST part about finishing a race — BRUNCH TIME. 
While celebrating with family and friends, surrounded by bottomless fries, there was one thing missing; my cousin, Victoria, who was feeling too sick post-chemo treatment to make it to our victory meal.

I’m now signed up for the 2019 Pittsburgh Half Marathon (again, sorry feet!) with a specific goal in mind. That goal to inspire others on the course with a specific name on the back of my shirt. Victoria. She passed shortly after receiving her masters degree to become a child life specialist. She had the biggest passion for helping kids, especially those going through battles like her own. When she wasn’t studying, being an amazing wife, at doctor’s appointments or in treatment she would spend her time at Connecting Champions; a Pittsburgh-based 501(c)3 nonprofit that helps kids with cancer through the developmental & social challenges of the disease. They match each child with an inspirational role model who can be there every step of the way. Anyone who knew Vic would say she is thee ultimate role model – in sports, in school, in faith, in family and in friendships… like the ones she made at Connecting Champions. 
If she were here today, she would be drinking sweet tea like a true southern belle beauty, preparing for her career in child life, and volunteering with this organization she cared deeply about. 

This year I will be running for my charity of choice – Connecting Champions. It will be Connecting Champions first year with a team in the Pittsburgh Marathon Run For A Reason Program!. I am so excited to watch this team grow and spread our mission across the city of Pittsburgh. 

Find me on the course this year sporting purple (Victoria’s favorite color) with Victoria Kathelene Ondo Burnfins’ name spread across my shirt. If you see me, send a smile or a wave my way. Then, look at your feet and tell them, “Sorry, because we’re going to keep on going.”


To every supporter, THANK YOU. When you show up on race day, you provide motivation to not only finish the race, but to complete the mission we set out for ourselves, or maybe even for others.

My mission is to FIND A CURE. With your help, we will be #VICtorious. 

See you at the starting line!

Vic & CCCHampions

We are actively growing our team to make sure we spread awareness and raise funds for an amazing organization. Want to join our mission!? Contact heathergracethomas21@gmail.com!


Activity Kits

National Geographic Science Magic Kit

​Help 8-year-old Joe

Future Scientist

Get a science experiment kit to explore with his mentor!

​Help 9-year-old Myla

Future Artist

Get art supplies to create with her mentor!

Help 23-year-old Erik

Future Coffee Barista

Get coffee supplies to learn how to create specialty drinks with his mentor!

The pandemic showed many people what social isolation is really like. It also showed there are many other great ways to connect. That’s why we launched our activity kits. These mailed out packages provide fun activities for our mentors and kids/young adults to do together — virtually.

Reach Out to Us

Or contact Friendship@ConnectingChampions.org / 412.376.3755