Local Boston bombing victim, family to cross marathon finish line in Charlotte

As they prepare to walk across the finish line at the Charlotte marathon, Boston bombing victim Erika Brannock and her family will gather Friday night for a benefit dinner to help offset a mountain of medical bills.

Brannock, a 29-year-old Towson preschool teacher, said she's anticipating the gravity of the moment, as she, her mother, Carol Downing, and sister and brother-in-law, Nicole and Michael Gross, cross the finish line as survivors.

"My sister is going to be the race starter," said Brannock, who was the honorary starter for the Baltimore Marathon in October. "My mom is running the half marathon and then my brother-in-law is going to push me in my wheelchair for the 5K."

Brannock and the Grosses, who live in Charlotte, were waiting near the finish line at the Boston marathon in April for Downing to finish when the first of the two bombs exploded. Brannock's left leg was amputated above the knee and her right leg was badly injured.

Nicole Gross, a standout Mount Hebron High School swimmer and former University of Tennessee competitor, suffered broken bones and other injuries. Her husband, who was standing a few feet from the sisters, received burns and lacerations.

Proceeds from Friday's pasta dinner will go toward the Be Strong Stay Strong Fund, which benefits Brannock's and the Grosses' recoveries. Nicole Gross, a fitness instructor, will be the keynote speaker with a message of "attitude and gratitude," according to Thunder Road race organizers.

The sisters and Michael Gross were among the 260 people injured in the Boston bombing. Three people were killed in the explosions.



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