Meet the 2020 Team

Anne DiVitto

Hello there! I am a Grand Rapids area native, co-founder of local website Grand Rapids Girl, and digital marketing professional with GreenCup Digital. I am so excited to be part of the 2020 Road Warrior team, joining a group of runners who are excited about running, our community and creating a supportive group for runners of all levels!

When I finished college and began my career, making time for fitness became a priority, but also a challenge as work and family commitments increased. As I got older, my focus on exercise and healthy living have increased each day, especially after losing my father to a short and brutal battle with cancer. This life-altering event drastically changed my perspective, and I made many significant changes in my life. I hope to be able to inspire others to do the same!

I love spending time with my children and husband, playing with our two dogs, and giving my time and efforts where I am called. When I'm not working with business owners alongside GreenCup Digital, I am sharing all that our Grand Rapids community has to offer on my local blog and social media profiles for Grand Rapids Girl.  I can't wait to share my Road Warrior journey!

I am fundraising for my Charity Partner - Hand2Hand

Cliff Kopp

In 2013, I was diagnosed with a rare cancer called Gastrointestinal Stromal Tumor. Due to the location of the tumor, the treatment was an extensive life changing Whipple surgery that removed part of my pancreas and reconfigured my digestive system followed by 3 years of taking a daily chemo pill. During the 3 years, I had no energy, no interests, and was tired and in constant pain since surgery.

In February 2016 with 7 months left of chemo, I made it a goal to complete one 5k for each month of chemo, but due to health issues, I was only able to complete 6 runs. Left a little frustrated and wanting to give up, I kept looking for what I could do to help me improve my health and make me feel like myself again. In November 2016, I signed up for Fit Body Boot Camp 8-Week Fitness Challenge. The challenge was eye opening and I was faced with the reality that cancer and surgery had changed me both physically and mentally. While working out I made many new friends and a lot of them also ran which made me want to run again. This group I met at Boot Camp encourages and supports me daily and inspired me to apply to be a Road Warrior.

I run for all of those affected by cancer, for those who don’t think they will ever get back to themselves after a life altering diagnosis, and for myself. I am so excited to be on the Road Warrior team to be able to push myself and see what my post-chemo body can do, and to partner with the community as we train for this challenging race.

I am fundraising for my Charity Partner - American Cancer Society Hope Lodge.

Becky Vander Zwaag

I’m extremely excited to join the 2020 Road Warrior team! I have been a runner since 2010.  I started running after my second son was born as a way to relieve stress and get back in shape.  Last year, my mom was diagnosed with returning breast cancer and I was diagnosed with the BRCA 2 gene.  I decided to have a prophylactic bilateral mastectomy in February with reconstruction in June to reduce my high risk of breast cancer.  I ran the 10K for River Bank Run last year with tissue expanders just to prove to myself I could still do it!

My bucket list is to run a marathon!!  I’m excited to train with this team to help me become a better and more consistent runner and get back into shape after last year!  I can’t wait to crush some goals for 2020 and would love to have you join me!

I’m excited to raise money and support all the fighters and survivors of cancer along with their families with my charity partner - American Cancer Society Hope Lodge.

David Billingsly

I have been running for 35+ years and a member of RunGR for the last 9.  I have always believed that if you have ever gotten a cup of water from a volunteer it is your duty to volunteer at an aid station and support another runner.  I have volunteered at the GR marathon, the Bridge Run and served as the Gazelle Girl aid station captain for the last 4 years.

I am looking forward to being a Road Warrior and supporting the Amway River Bank Run, the Premier race in West Michigan and National 25K championship race.  I am excited to start this journey with the other Warriors and look forward to once again conquering this distance.

I am fundraising for my Charity Partner - American Cancer Society Hope Lodge

 

Gabriele Gottlieb

I have done sports all my life, growing up playing soccer and volleyball in Germany. When I moved to Grand Rapids, I got quickly involved in triathlon and fell in love. The triathlon and running communities quickly became my family far away from home. Along the way, I have made amazing friends, met amazing people, and went on great adventures. Those friends have helped me deal with a chronic illness and depression. Their unwavering support allowed me to achieve more in triathlon than I ever imagined I could. I am looking forward to sharing my story, train with my fellow Road Warriors, help other runners to train for the Amway Riverbank Run, and push for a PR on May 9th.

I am fundraising for my Charity Partner - Conductive Learning Center

Eric Hansen

Just 6 years ago I was 296 pounds and a 2 pack a day smoker. Now I have done 5ks all the way to 26.2 mile runs, sprint triathlons all the way to a 140.6 mile full triathlon. I have swam the Straits of Mackinac twice!  You can say that I am pretty much into a healthy lifestyle now and I also enjoy giving back through many volunteer programs in which I am very active.

I love sharing my story and always willing to help others in achieving their goals. I strongly believe in the power of positive thinking even the inspired need inspiration!

I am fundraising for my Charity Partner - Conductive Learning Center

Erin Williams

I've been based in Grand Rapids for the last seven years - having come to the west side of Michigan through schooling at Grand Valley State University.  My current home is in the nonprofit sector, working to increase food education and food security in Greater GR. 

Running has fallen on and off my radar a number of times throughout my life, but I became more serious about it towards the end of 2018, when I signed up for my first half marathon. 

It is through the experience of running that I feel truly changed - the big picture attitudes and viewpoints I have towards life have dramatically been altered. Life has become so expansive, and I have found so much courage to go after all of the incredible opportunities that exist in the universe. I'm looking to find truth, and to choose love in the darkest of corners. 

Gratitude to be a member of your 2020 Road Warrior Team. ♥

I am fundraising for my Charity Partner - Children's Advocacy Center of Kent County

Laura Traxler

I am the Director of Membership at the Grand Rapids Chamber. My role at the chamber allows me to directly serve the business owners and professionals in Grand Rapids.

When I'm not meeting with businesses or attending community events, I'm spending time with friends and family or finding ways to stay active.

I love the outdoors and anything active but I have a special love for running. When I started running about 10 years ago as a way to stay in shape, I quickly realized that it's more than that; running is like meditation. Endurance running is the perfect blend of mental self care and physical challenge. I am so excited to be on the road warrior team!

I am fundraising for my Charity Partner - Mental Health Foundation of West Michigan - be nice

 

Jay O'Neal

I am River Bank Road Warrior. I have run the 25K event the last seven years and with the help of the Road Warrior team and coaches hope be in the two hour club for the first time in 2020!

When I am not running or working as an Aerospace Engineer, I enjoy spending time with my family and working with non-profit organizations to improve the lives of children both here in Grand Rapids as well as abroad. Hope to see you on the trails soon, Happy Running!

I am fundraising for my Charity Partner - Hand2Hand

Shelley Irwin

The host and producer for The WGVU Morning Show, a newsmagazine talk-show format on the local NPR affiliate Monday through Friday and award winning in her profession, including five consecutive Gracie Allen Awards, the 2016 Athena Award, the Rotary of Grand Rapids’ Service Above Self award, and most recently, was named as one of the 200 Most Powerful Business Leaders in West Michigan by the Grand Rapids Business Journal.

My community involvement extends from the Kent County Park Foundation to the  Michigan Women’s Foundation, Hope Network, Girl Scouts and the Cherry Health Foundation, among others. 

I have participated in 16 River Bank Runs, multiple Half Iron Triathlons, Marathons, USAT Nationals, And has represented the U.S. in the Long Distance Triathlon and Duathlon World Championships.

I am raising funds for my Charity Partner - Children's Advocacy of Kent County

Jeff Sorensen

Running is more than exercise. It's about breaking through mental barriers and pushing through, it's about leaving all the worries and stress behind at the starting line, and it's about overcoming whatever it is that holding you down. That's what running is to me at least. Everyone has their own story, and everyone runs for a different purpose. I'm thrilled to be a part of the Road Warrior team to have the opportunity to tell my story, and continue to write new chapters on my running journey.

I started running as a sprinter in middle school, and continued through high school, even coaching my old team for three years after graduating. After that, there wasn't really a good purpose that sprinting was serve me, so I began slowing running longer distances. I'd often run consistently for awhile, only to go on hiatus for months at a time, until a race would come up. My first ever distance race was the River Bank Run 10K, and I fell in love. I've had the itch ever since to step up to the 25K, and after 5 years I'm finally taking the plunge.

Beyond running, I'm all about helping and advocating for others and getting involved in the community. I'm the Executive Director of Out On The Lakeshore, Holland's LGBTQ+ Resource Center and the host of the Holland Pride Festival. I also serve as the Vice President of the Grand Rapids Young Professionals, and am a board member of Delta Tau Delta International Fraternity's 'Delt Pride' LGBT Affinity Group. I hope in a way that telling my Road Warrior story will just be another way to help others on their own journey. If this new chapter can make a positive impact on at least one person's life, then crossing the finish line will be that much better.

I am fundraising for my Charity Partner - Children's Advocacy Center of Kent County

Tracy Hixson

Hello everyone!  I am very excited to be a Road Warrior for the 2020 Amway River Bank Run.  I have been a casual runner for a few years, but always thought that completing a 25K was out of my reach.  “Why try now?” you may ask and the answer is simple.  This is My Time.  I have an amazing daughter who is living her best life at Central Michigan University and a great supportive husband to help me with this journey.  This is a new chapter for me now – to force myself out of my comfort zone and prove that it is never too late to push yourself.  The decision to choose the River Bank Run as the proving ground was even more simple.  As a Fifth Third employee, this race has been near and dear to my heart for the last 20 years, as I have held many roles “behind the scenes” on the race committee making sure that it is an event to remember for all that join us on race day.  I am currently serving as the Charity Partner Coordinator on the Race Steering Committee and I continue to be very passionate about the community commitment component of the race.  Also, for the last few years, I coordinated the Finish Fest on Calder Plaza to make sure that people had an amazing time after they finish – and now it is my turn to be able to celebrate when I cross that finish line.  I look forward to being among the other runners who have trained for months, achieved their goal, and just want to kick back and enjoy a well-earned beer! All are welcome to join me on this journey and share a toast on race day – Cheers to that!

I am the Charity Partner Coordinator for the Amway River Bank Run and plan to raise funds for all five of our Charity Partners

 

 

Sarah Holloway

I am thankful to have the opportunity to be a Road Warrior. I’d like to tell you a little about how I got here.   30 pounds. Maybe that doesn’t sound like much, but I gained it in less than a year when I went from working in the hospitality industry to an office job. On my small frame, it was noticeable. I was trying so hard not to have to buy new clothes, but buttons were nearly popping on almost everything I owned. It was either start exercising or come up with money to buy clothes that fit. I was a poor college student, so exercise it was. My sister. She has been active throughout her life, playing tennis, cheerleading, and running. I started expressing my frustration about my new weight to her, and she encouraged me to run a 5K with her. She promised she’d stick with me and pace me through the race. I knew she was fast, and I didn’t want to slow her down. I kept procrastinating and making excuses, but she was persistent. Finally, near the end of the 5K season, I started “training” only three weeks before the race. I couldn’t even run for a half mile when I started. I trained on my own, embarrassed by my slow pace and frequent walk breaks. I would alternate walking and running, trying to go a few steps further every time. I think I ran/walked 2 miles one time before the race.

The race. It was 2010, at the Susan G. Komen 5K, when it was still in Grandville. On race morning, I didn’t want to go, but I did. I mean, I paid to do this. My sister was my encourager through the entire race,sticking by my side, pushing me when I was ready to quit. I don’t remember if she let me walk at all, I don’t remember what my finish time was. What I do remember is crossing the finish line, looking around me, thinking I could do better. Side note, you’ll have a much better race experience if you train for more than 3 weeks. Snowballing. I chose another 5K later that fall to complete. Then, I signed up for the Irish Jig 5K the next spring. I spent a lot of time on the treadmill. I really didn’t know the first thing about how to train, but I searched online for training plans that sounded like something I might be able to do. I still wasn’t fast by any stretch of the imagination (heck, I’m still not), but I decided to sign up for a 10K. Of course, my sister signed up too. I looked at my sister after the race (feeling the post-race endorphins) and told her we should sign up for the GR Half marathon. I think she laughed, saying something about me being crazy, but she agreed to do it. Neither one of us had ever run that far. We didn’t run the race together, but we both crossed the finish line that day. I continue to participate in a lot of other crazy adventures including a bunch more 5Ks, 10Ks, 13.1s, 25Ks, 26.2s, an ultramarathon, a few duathlons, and even a few triathlons.

Inspired. Since that very first 5K, I’ve gotten the opportunity to meet so many amazing people in the running community (both here in Grand Rapids and elsewhere). As it turns out, running with people is way more fun than I ever thought it would be. I would love the opportunity to meet you wherever you are on your running journey, and help you reach your next goal. Whether it’s your first 5K or a new personal best, know that there are a whole lot of people rooting for you and here to support you! I can’t wait to hear your story. Just take that first step, and come introduce yourself to me or any of my teammates. Then, take the next important step and get signed up for the 2020 Amway Riverbank Run. #dowhatscaresyou #yougotthis #nevertoofastforfun #livetrainrun

I am fundraising for my Charity Partner - Mental Health Foundation of West Michigan - be nice