Running to empower sick children through bedside magic

Marathons have been a part of Maureen Lesak’s life since her first marathon in 1999. In 2013, Maureen decided to turn this hobby into something greater. With a little encouragement from a dear friend, she joined the Open Heart Magic charity racing team for the Bank of America Chicago Marathon.

On October 9, Lesak, a managing director at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, will run her third Bank of American Chicago Marathon on behalf of Open Heart Magic, and tenth Chicago Marathon overall.

Lesak found the mission of Open Heart Magic to be unique and compelling – the organization had pioneered an innovative and therapeutic way to reach hospitalized children at their bedside through the surprise, excitement and wonder of magic. Founded in 2004, the organization’s highly-trained, all-volunteer army of hospital magicians now provides this unique magic therapy to more than 10,000 kids per year across 10 Chicago area hospitals. This year, Open Heart Magic expanded to two new world class hospitals outside the Chicago area.

Lesak is an active charity team runner for Open Heart Magic, running more than 20 half marathons, marathons and other races each year in her Open Heart Magic jersey to raise awareness and funds for the organization’s cause. She and others on the team find it extremely rewarding when parents of patients reached by Open Heart Magic approach them along the course to thank the organization for helping their children. Maureen has expanded her involvement with organization, becoming a board member in 2014 and board chair in 2015.

“While growing, Open Heart Magic is still very much a grassroots organization. Aside from our annual benefit, the Bank of America Chicago Marathon is Open Heart Magic’s largest source of fundraising,” says Lesak. “Thanks to the Marathon, hard work of our charity team and generosity of the community, Open Heart Magic has been able to take its efforts to the next level and reach so many more kids.”

Outside of her role at Open Heart Magic, and her work for the bank, Lesak and her husband Karl Flener (also a charity team runner) have four children and reside in Lincoln Park. Supporting Open Heart Magic and running the Bank of America Chicago Marathon has become a staple activity for their family. With the marathon literally running through their backyard, the kids have grown up watching their parents, neighbors and community members participate in one of Chicago’s most iconic events.

“The Bank of America Chicago Marathon is a world-class event,” says Lesak. “No other race allows me to run with my community and colleagues from across the globe, in the city I call home and on behalf of a cause so important to my family.”


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