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Six-Year-Old Heart Patient Goes the Distance

VALHALLA, N.Y. – For 6-year-old Brooklyn Benedikt and her family, being named the Grand Marshall for the 2012 Go The Distance fund-raiser put together by the Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital was an unexpected joy.

“It’s really an incredible honor,” said Gregg Benedikt, Brooklyn’s father. “It came to us as a thrill.”

Brooklyn, of Crestwood, was chosen as the Grand Marshall after being a patient at the hospital. In the summer of 2010, shortly before she was set to enter kindergarten, Brooklyn underwent open-heart surgery to repair an atrial septal defect that left a large hole in her heart. The successful surgery allowed Brooklyn to attend kindergarten on time and continue leading a healthy life.

In fact, Brooklyn has used her new and improved heart to give back to the hospital in a big way. Over the past few years, she and her younger sister Quinn, 4, chose to give back all of their Christmas and birthday presents to children who are current patients in the hospital.

“Brooklyn knows the kind of care that she received while she was there,” Benedikt said. “If she wanted a puzzle, she had a puzzle in her room within 20 minutes. It’s really an exceptional place.”

Andrew LaGuardia, a spokesperson for the Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital, said the choice of Brooklyn as Grand Marshall was an easy one.

“We meet with families and children all the time and we thought that Brooklyn exemplifies the care that we provide here,” LaGuardia said. “We thought that they would be great representatives for the hospital.”

Last year, the Benedikts raised $10,000 through family and friends for the Go The Distance fund-raiser, which was donated to the hospital. Brooklyn's parents, Gregg and Andrea, are also in the process of creating a website, donateyourcoffeemoney.org.

The goal of the site is to receive small donations from people in lieu of coffee purchases, which will be donated to the Maria Fareri Children's Hospital.

The Go The Distance event is a fund-raising walk-run event that supports the children's hospital. As Grand Marshall, Brooklyn will lead the thousands of participants in the walk around the Westchester Medical Center campus in Valhalla on April 22.

In regards to leading the pack, Brooklyn's words were simple.

"I think it's awesome," Brooklyn said.

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