Max and Jake's Big Race: Running with Heart

Jerilyn Hammerstrom and Paula Cook share a special bond and friendship. Both of their sons were born with heart defects. And both had their hearts made whole at Rady Children’s Heart Institute.

The two women met more than a decade ago, when the Cooks moved in across the street from the Hammerstroms. As their families grew, so did their friendship. When Jerilyn’s son Max was 14 months old, he underwent open heart surgery at Rady Children’s to repair a hole in his heart. Two years later, Paula’s son Jake had a similar procedure when he was 2.

To fulfill their wish of helping other families going through a similar ordeal – and to give back to the Heart Institute – Jerilyn and Paula organized Max and Jake’s Big Race. Watching their sons cross the finish line was something they thought they would never see. To date, the event has raised more than $250,000.

Max and Jake are looking forward to next year’s race, which will be held in February at Morley Field Trails Gateway in Balboa Park.

To learn more about the race or to participate, visit

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