Meet our NYC Marathon Team!

The New York City Marathon is less than two weeks away and we’re so honored and excited to have an amazing group of 16 runners as part of Team First Candle.

We have runners who are new to our team and returning runners. We have siblings, aunts, uncles, parents and friends who have experienced the death of a precious baby.

All of them are committed to raising awareness about Sudden Unexpected Infant Death and money so that we can expand our education and bereavement programs.

Below learn more about our Team First Candle runners and please support them by donating to any one of them or just the team in general.


Jack Gallagher – Jack is a 29 year old software professional, living in Hoboken, NJ. He’s a graduate and former college football player at Franklin and Marshall College. The 2021 NYC Marathon will be his third overall marathon and second NYC marathon with Team First Candle. He’s running to raise money for First Candle in honor of his niece Mary Grace Szep  and to help support families who suffer a similar and unexpected loss.

Beth Gardner – On July 21, 2011, Beth’s beloved nephew, Maxwell Judah Leviss, died most unexpectedly, at the age of 9 months. Maxie’s sudden death sent shockwaves through the many lives he touched in his much too short time on earth; it taught her and her entire family the real meaning of heart-wrenching sadness. Beth is determined to help ensure that one day soon, we will understand what SIDS is so that other families will not have to experience this kind of loss. Beth is running the 2021 NYC marathon for Maxie and every child whose life has ended way too soon.

Matthew Ellerbrock – This is the second year Matthew is running as a member of Team First Candle.  In 2019 Matthew ran for the 10-year anniversary of his son’s death. Not a day goes by that Matthew and his wife Chrystal don’t think about William or work to educate others about how to put babies safely to sleep and make sure no other family has to go through what they’ve been through. It was to First Candle that Matthew and his wife turned when their son died, and they’ve been committed to raising money and SIDS awareness for the organization ever since.

Mirjam Lavabre and the Dreamers – This is a group of 8 friends who have come together to run in memory of Mirjam’s beautiful baby girl Lola who died from Sudden Unexpected Infant Death in 2006.  As Mirjam explains, “15 years ago when this tragedy struck, me and my then – husband Eric thought we did not need help at the time, we had an incredible group of friends supporting us, but we realized afterwards, we should have reached out to an organization like First Candle.”  Mirjam and the Dreamers are running to help raise awareness about First Candle’s education and bereavement support programs.

Emma Jacobson – Emma is the stepdaughter of our CEO Alison Jacobson. While she never had the opportunity to meet her stepbrother Connor who died from Sudden Unexpected Infant Death in 1997, she knows all about him and is committed to raising awareness about SUID and helping prevent other families from experiencing the devastating grief her stepmom did.

Molly Waitz – This is the second year Molly is running as a member of Team First Candle.  Molly is the mom of two sons, and while she has no personal connection to SIDS, she runs in honor of a baby from her hometown – Claire Lincoln – who died of Sudden Unexpected Infant Death.  Molly feels it’s important to bring awareness to SUID and the importance of always placing baby in a safe sleep area so that more of these deaths can be prevented.

Christina Di Bona – While Christina hasn’t experienced a loss, she’s been in the health care field for many years and has seen the need for more education around safe sleep and support for families who have experienced a loss.  Christine ran the NYC Marathon in 2013 and is excited to do it again and raise awareness of Sudden Unexpected Infant Death and First Candle’s work in educating everyone about the importance of creating a safe sleep zone for babies.

Erin Wilsberg – Erin is a military spouse with two boys, ages 7 and 2 and a half. She has had the opportunity to run in 9 different states with the NYC Marathon as her ultimate running dream. Once her older son, Callaghan, was able to join a running club she passed on her running bond with him. He’s been at every race running beside her or cheering her on. Erin wants to help promote First Candle so every parent can experience their goals, dreams, and hobbies with their children.