One woman’s passionate pursuit to cure NF

Author: Sarah Wise
Published On: 09/04/2015

When we think of passion, Tricia Ratell is one person that comes to mind. Since her son, Brendan, was diagnosed with NF at the age of 18 months, she has worked tirelessly to raise NF awareness and funds to combat the disorder. For the past several years she has traveled with the NF Network to Washington, DC as we visit over 200 congressmen and women helping to explain the necessity of continued funding of NF research, as only a mother could.

Tricia has also turned her passion of running into building NF awareness and funds. She has run in more events than we have counted, always wearing an NF running shirt. Her passion is so measurable, it motivates others. In 2010, her sister-in-law Lisa Wilberding, not previously a runner, trained and finished the 26.2 mile, Chicago Marathon and raised $4,890 for NF research. And Lisa’s commitment and completion of a marathon inspired Donat, Tricia’s husband to try his hand at running and he completed his first marathon as well.

We were recently contacted by Jessica Dexter, a friend of Tricia’s. The two women became friends while carpooling their sons on summer activities.

One such day, while driving together down a country road, they passed a woman out on a run. Tricia began laughing and crying as she watched the runner.

“I didn't know what to think,” Jessica said. “It took her at least five minutes to collect herself.”

Tricia explained the woman was wearing a green Neurofibromatosis Network shirt.

“She was beside herself to see — out in an area she was unfamiliar with — someone else who cared and supported the same cause that has been so dear to her heart,” Jessica said. “In that moment I witnessed the inspiration and strength of not just the mom of a son with NF, but of her heart and soul of pure selflessness. Tricia was not sad, but overwhelmed with love, encouraged with strength, and in disbelief that another runner that she had not personally known not only knew about NF, but ran for NF.”

Four years later, Jessica is still inspired by the memory.

“Since that moment early on in our newfound friendship, I thought I could help to support her and her passion because of what it truly meant to her,” Jessica said. “Tricia is just an incredible person and she goes above and beyond for her family and for NF, always putting herself last.”

Jessica is now training to run a half-marathon for Tricia, Brendan, the NF Network, and everyone hoping for a cure for NF, a decision that began in the car that day.

Does Tricia’s passion inspire you like it has so many others? Is there an activity that you are passionate about and would consider joining others in? We’d love to talk with you. Contact Yvonne Glass at or call (630) 510-1115.

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