A couple of years back, Michele Geidel, of Sykesville, said she overheard her daughter, Madi, Facetiming with a friend. They were talking about how they could make a difference to others. Now, just two years later, 12-year-old Madi is about to hold her first event for her brand-new nonprofit, Hearts for Hope.

"I thought, if you have the ability to help people in need, then why not," Madi said, noting that her charity will not support one illness or one cause, but will offer hope to many through donations to a variety of charities.

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With her mom's help, Madi's charity gained nonprofit status from the federal government in December. It held its first board meeting in February and, that quick, Madi was already off and running, planning a 5K race to be held on Sunday, April 9, at Freedom Park in Sykesville.

"I love to run so I said, 'Why not make it a running event?' I have run in multiple 5Ks since I was 10," Madi said. "Running is a great way to clear your mind."

According to her mom, Madi reviewed a long list of charities, finally deciding to donate the proceeds of this race to Team Impact. She said it costs $2,500 to put one child through the Team Impact program and Madi is on her way to sponsoring two. Geidel said a family friend's son, Sully, has cancer and was sponsored by Team Impact.

"With Team Impact, the kids get drafted by a team," Geidel said. "In his case, they sat him down and gave him the Navy hat and the Army hat, and had him pick which one. He picked Navy.

"He was at the Army-Navy game. They go on the field and actually become a part of the team."

Sully's mom, Amy Shields, of Edgewater, said Sully, who will be 8 in April, was matched with the Navy Sprint Football team.

"The whole experience has been amazing for Sully and his brothers [12-year-old Jack and 10-year-old Mac]," Shields said. "He goes to their practices and games, and they bring the boys into the locker room pregame and Sully leads them out of the tunnel onto the field. It's like he has a bunch of awesome big brothers. They have gone out of their way to make him feel like he is part of their team."

Shields said Sully lost his hair a few months ago due to his radiation treatments.

"It started coming out in clumps, so we had to shave it," she said. "Early the next morning, I got a text from Patrick, one of the players. It was a picture of himself. He had shaved his head for Sully. Later that afternoon I received pictures of the whole team shaving their heads. Sully thought that was just about the coolest thing ever.

"They make him feel special. They give him something to look forward to, especially at times when hospital visits are grueling. They make him forget, for a little bit. Sully often says, 'because I get to have cancer I can ... ." He feels like cancer is something he 'gets' to do and part of the reason for that is the friendship he shares with these guys."

Madi said Team Impact has made an impression on her.

"Team Impact deals with kids with multiple types of illnesses and diseases. And they really do make an impact on their lives," she said.

For Madi, it is not only about making a difference but also about increasing awareness.

"Not everyone understands what other people go through all the time. Things like this [race] might make people more aware," she said. "It's not easy for others to know the depth of it. That's also why I think Team Impact is a good group."

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Madi is the middle child of three with an older brother and a younger brother. Her mom said she has always had a giving spirit.

"It makes my heart very full that she sees the need to give back and to do the best that she can," Geidel said.

Shields said her family will be at the Hearts for Hope event. She's touched that Madi chose to support Team Impact.

"I wouldn't miss it," Shields said. "My 12-year-old, Jack, and I will be running. My husband will do the mile with Mac and Sully. I am blown away that a 12-year-old has the drive, determination, caring and empathy to do something like this," she said of Madi. "It's really extraordinary."

The Sunday Hearts for Hope Run includes a 1K run/walk, and a 5K for the more serious runners. It will take place at Freedom Park, 100 Raincliffe Road, Sykesville. The opening ceremony is at 8:15 a.m. The 5K kicks off at 8:30 a.m. with the 1K immediately following. The cost to register is $35 for adults and $25 for kids and includes a T-shirt and a bag of goodies.

"We have 65 people registered now, and we are hoping for close to 125," Geidel said. "People can register online [at www.heartsforhope.net] or at the event but the shirts are being given out on a first-come first-served basis. Shirts are not guaranteed. We'll have a packet pickup at TriSport Junction in Sykesville on Friday April 7 from 6 to 8 p.m. and Saturday April 8 from noon to 3 p.m."

According to Geidel they will have medals for all the kids running plus first-, second- and third-place recognition in several age groups and the gift bags for every participant.

"It starts at the back pavilion at Freedom Park. The Joey D. Cares Rock Orchestra will be playing at the event from 7 to 11 a.m. and they are also emceeing and providing the sound for us, plus getting the runners going in the morning," Geidel said. "We'll have bagels and coffee donated by Kismet Café and Madi's working on getting various stores to donate bananas and granola bars to us. And we'll have bottled water. The run will follow the trails."

Geidel said, a while back, Madi donated two race registrations to a silent auction benefiting the Sykesville Baseball League. The winner, Tracy Gaiser, plans to bring even more people to the race.

"It was kind of ironic," Gaiser said, adding that there will be seven people in her group. "I am a special ed. teacher in Howard County. I saw that Team Impact was about kids with chronic or life-threatening illnesses and anything with kids is close to my heart.

"I am a strong believer in community, too. I like seeing people pulling together for others. We are very fortunate, and we want our kids to see that we are doing things for other people."

While Madi prepares for run day, she is already working on her next event — a June 10 walk to be held at Oklahoma Road Middle School. This one will support the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.

"She hopes to have one to two events per year," Geidel said of her daughter. "After the June event, other charities can apply to be the recipient of future fundraisers. I think that makes Hearts for Hope a little bit unique."

Gaiser said she looks forward to running, and that it is good to see others making a difference.

"She is so young to be doing something so big," she said of Madi.

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Even though she is working away to make it a great event, Madi boiled the reason for the race down to two simple sentences.

"Hearts for Hope has one simple goal in mind," she said. "To give back to the community, while bringing families together for a day of fun."

If you go

What: Hearts for Hope Run

When: Sunday, April 9, 8 a.m.

Where: Freedom Park, Sykesville



More information: www.heartsforhope.net

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