AKRON  Sept. 28 was a big day for two area local superheroes, Madison Harrison and Joey Ricci, as they attended the Akron Children’s Akron Marathon Race Series as Hero Patients.

Madison and Joey, along with other hero patients, had their own Hero Zone located along the race route for their families, friends and caregivers to gather and cheer on the runners.

Runners and walkers collect donations to participate in the race to support general patient care needs at the hospital. Joey’s dad, Erik Ricci, ran for the first time (half marathon) last year as he was inspired by Joey’s courage. This year, he competed in the full marathon, a first for him.

Last year, the Ricci’s were Champion Fundraisers raising about $2,700.

“This year I wanted to go big. I have been training for six months and ran over 400 miles of training so I could prepare for the full," Eric Ricci said. "Between our race website and the golf outing we just put on we will raise more than $5,000 this year. It’s a great feeling to be able to help such an amazing place."

The money raised goes to support general patient care needs at the hospital.

Madison, 12, is a local hero from Green was hosted in the hospital’s hero zone. Her hero name is Captain Courageous, and her superpower is dancing through life’s obstacles. She is a Children’s Hospital (CH) hero because she stays positive every step of the way as she deals with cerebral palsy, scoliosis and several other diagnoses that she is being treated for at Chidlren's Hospital. She has had to relearn how to walk five times and through it all continues to remain upbeat and encouraging to others and have a positive attitude at home, school and while working with her care team at the hospital.

Madison doesn’t stop at loving to dance she spends time with her friends at Dance Unlimited, plays baseball, sings in a choir and loves doing art.

“She’s always shown a lot of heart in therapy perhaps it’s because she was born on Valentine’s Day," said Madison's mother, Janessa.

Madison was one of the smallest babies in the Akron Children’s NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit) in 2005. She was born three months premature with a fragile heart and delicate lungs. 

Madison and her many supporters were in her Hero Zone at mile 25.5 near the end of the course in downtown Akron. She enjoys fundraising for Akron Children's Hospital and is part of the Children's Miracle Network. She was nominated by her care team to represent the hospital at the marathon. Madison is an only child, and lives with her mother and stepfather, Thomas Conahan. Cheering her on were her grandparents, Mark and Becky Deichert, Alison and Terry Ferguson and step grandparents, Pat and Mary Conahan. 

Joey is 14 and is from Springfield Township. He is known as Mr. Unstoppable. His superpower is conquering the medically impossible. Joey has mitochondrial disease and it’s left him with muscle weakness, gastrointestinal disorders, swallowing difficulties, liver disease and hearing problems. His parents are great spokespeople for Joey and his older siblings, brothers Brendon and Daimen, and sisters, Blake and Brianna, support Joey in his activities. Joey participates in the Sparkles Cheerleaders program and enjoys watching the band at the Friday night Springfield Spartans football games.

“He continues to be a happy kid and surprises us every day with little things he picks up," said Eric Ricci.

Ricci said it could be him using a new sign to communicate or saying a new word.

“After our trip to Sesame Place this summer, he learned 'Elmo,' " Ricci said. "He has a shirt with Elmo on it and will point and tell you all day it’s Elmo.” 

Ricci said that signing up for the race last year and being a champion of children was the greatest decision he ever made.

“Children’s Hospital has been a big part of our lives since Joey was one," he said. "Everyone there from the cleaning people to the doctors are just amazing. They all took time every time we were there to make sure they knew as much about Joey as they could. They truly care about the kids that are there.”

Joey’s Hero Zone was at Mile 11.6, which was on West Market Street near Merriman Road. His zone was sponsored by Circle K.

Both families and caregivers from the hospital care teams are very proud of these two young people and are encouraged each day by their strength and positivity.

Janessa Harrison said Madison’s favorite line is “I have CP but CP doesn’t have me.”

“She is our miracle baby, who’s now getting ready for high school, and we couldn’t be more proud of her,” she said.