Running for laughter with each mile

It seems like magic — but it’s actually a group of dedicated volunteers, working hard to brighten the day for sick children. Started in Chicago in 2004, Open Heart Magic (OHM) is an innovative charity that brings hope and laughter to kids in children’s hospitals. Because of OHM and its hospital volunteer magicians, kids who are feeling scared during treatment smile for the first time since they were admitted. Volunteers are certified in using close-up magic in the clinical environment, and visit pediatrics, intensive care, isolation rooms, the emergency room and pediatric cancer departments.

OHM’s volunteer magicians even teach each child how to do a magic trick of their very own, transforming the hospital into a place of positive memories and offering kids a new outlook with something magical to look forward to.

The Bank of America Chicago Marathon not only allows us to impact so many vulnerable pediatric patients and their families, but also creates a really unique volunteer opportunity for adults.

Emily Clouse
Manager of Operations at Open Heart Magic

Today, 10 hospitals in the Chicagoland area partner with OHM to stimulate the imaginations of hospital-bound children using magic. The organization helped over 11,000 kids in 2016, and this year, it hopes to reach even more. One way OHM has been able to grow and increase its impact each year is through the charity program of the Bank of America Chicago Marathon.

For seven years, OHM has been an official Bank of America Chicago Marathon charity partner. Since becoming a partner, the organization has had almost 500 runners go the distance. This year, the team consists of 68 runners and is the biggest marathon team OHM has ever had.

“Having our charity program as part of the Bank of America Chicago Marathon is one of the main reasons we have been able to expand our network to Michigan and Ohio,” said Emily Clouse, manager of operations at OHM. “The money raised by each and every one of our runners goes such a long way, and we’ve seen the great impact these funds have on our program.”

In fact, OHM is on track to raise $100,000 through the marathon this year due to the efforts of the charity team. These funds will support training programs for more volunteer magicians, ultimately helping to reach more Chicago-area hospitalized children.

Maureen Lesak, managing director at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, sits on the board for Open Heart Magic and will be running in the 2017 Bank of America Chicago Marathon on behalf of the charity for the fifth time. Maureen commented, “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. When race participants and spectators approach me during the race to thank Open Heart Magic for helping their children, it is a true signal of our growing impact. We are making a difference for these families during an incredibly challenging time.”

“The Bank of America Chicago Marathon not only allows us to impact so many vulnerable pediatric patients and their families, but also creates a really unique volunteer opportunity for adults,” Clouse said. “People can give back to their community, which helps make a big city, like Chicago, feel like a smaller place.”

On race day, Clouse will be on the sidelines soaking in the atmosphere of the marathon.

“I’m looking forward to cheering on everybody pushing themselves so hard. They have spent months and months helping others through their charities, and now they can enjoy the fun day,” she said.

2016 OHM charity runner Katie Garrity

Katie Garrity running the 2016 marathon with team OHM.

Ray receives high fives as he runs in 2016

Ray Punzalan, receives high fives as he runs the streets of Chicago.

David Schmidt of team OHM

David Schmidt of team OHM.


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