Story by Katie Suddy, Norwich Free Academy
Matthew Tillinger was a 21 year-old man who died in 2013 from an aortic dissection.
According to The National Institutes of Health website, MedLine Plus, an “aortic dissection is a serious condition in which there is a tear in the wall of the major artery carrying blood out of the heart (aorta).”
Matthew’s sister, Tiffany Larson decided to organize an event called “March for Matthew 5k” to raise money and awareness for aortic diseases, as well as to try to prevent premature deaths caused by them.
According to Cleveland Clinic, “Approximately 47,000 people die [annually] from aortic diseases, more than breast cancer, AIDs, homicides, or motor vehicle accidents.”
Tillinger was very loved by his family and friends.
We had an amazing relationship. He had such a great soul. He was good to his community, and his family," said his brother-in-law, Sean Larson.
Tillinger's family has been hosting the 5k event in Plainfield since 2015.
“The turnout has been getting bigger and bigger and people are donating more and more.” Sean Larson says, “We just want to bring awareness to the community, and create a wonderful community event… There are a lot of children and people coming out here to support us and Matthew,” explained Mary Lou Puldo, Tillinger's mother.
Tiffany Larson said, “The feedback is amazing. Amazing has truly come short to how we really feel. We’ve gone to the moon bounce company, tons of donations or just services, and the outpouring of love really shows that our community is really amazing.”
“All of our proceeds go to the John Ritter Foundation of Aortic Health and awareness. Those proceeds help people become more aware, and try to find more ways to help awareness of aortic health for people of all ages," added Larson.
“My brother had passed away from the same thing that John Ritter had passed away from, and I had never realized that until it happened to my brother. I want to help people become more aware of aortic dissection and aneurysms, and how it can happen to anyone at any age.”
According to the healthtalk.org, “Nearly 75% of all patients with a ruptured aneurysm die from the condition, which makes screening crucial for people at greatest risk.”
“Its called the silent killer. A lot of people go in the night, so we just want to bring awareness to the community, and create a wonderful community event,” Sean Larson added.
The 5K event is doing more than simply educating the public.
“For me this event has helped be happier with myself because I recently lost my mother in the beginning of the year, so it kind of pulled me out of a depression, and made me have a goal. So it’s helped me in a lot of ways, personally, and it’s also for a really great cause that I’m totally great with donating to,” commented Jerrica Rainville.
Frank Daniels, Tillinger's childhood friend, said, “The love, the support, just to be there for him. Even though he’s not around physically, I’m still here for him when he’s here spiritually… this event means everything to me. Matt was a big part of my life, and he still continues to be a big part of my life as I grow older.”
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