by Ciera Choate
After finally being surgery free for a year, 10-year-old Isabella Mallozzi fulfilled her long time dream of joining Girls on the Run in Union County for two consecutive seasons.
Isabella was diagnosed at the age of 2 with hydrocephalus, a disease that causes fluid build-up in the brain. Although the disease does not have a cure it can be managed with shunts placed in the brain to prevent build-up. The shunts are not very reliable, which led to multiple surgeries.
“We would always go to register her (for a run) and she would get sick; her body wasn’t strong enough,” Isabella’s mom, Shannon Mallozzi, said.
Girls on the Run trains its members to run a 5k while also teaching them “how to be a better person,” according to Isabella. Recently, the organization held a national competition for its members that required them to write essays less than 300 words describing how Girls on the Run makes them fearless. Isabella placed in the top 10.
“I wrote how just being with these girls and knowing we are all family and we are going to guide each other is what makes me fearless,” Isabella said. After her 24 brain surgeries and four heart surgeries, fearlessness is an important aspect of her life.
Along with the award, Isabella won a $3,500 grant for Union County’s Girls on the Run to help pay for membership for girls who might not be able to afford the $135 fee regularly and $500 for herself that she plans to put toward her college fund.
“I’m not sure where I want to go yet, but I think I want to go to Cornell. I want to be a brain surgeon because I have a brain disease,” Isabella said. “I thought it would be cool to help people with my disease.”
Because of her many surgeries, Isabella hasn’t had the opportunity to take vacations or see her family in New York, so to celebrate being surgery free for a year and her award her grandparents took her to Disney World in Orlando. After her trip Isabella went to New York to visit with her family for the rest of the summer.
“This is kind of like her celebration summer,” Shannon Mallozzi said. “Last year she was so sick and wasn’t able to go anywhere to see her family.”
While she is happy about her personal accomplishment Isabella doesn’t think of winning this contest as just a personal victory.
“I was really, really happy,” she said. “I was so happy that I got picked because I knew my team worked so hard. I’m just really happy they were recognized for what they have done.”
Find more information on Girls on the Run at the group’s website, www.girlsontherun.org.