Katie Patton
June 04, 2013 7:00 am

We know by now that kindness infiltrates our lives everyday if we only choose to let it. Sometimes kindness comes in the form of a grand gesture while other wonderful moments are built on a genuine compliment or random act of good will. Love and warmth are around nearly every corner and when we open up to that notion, we realize sincerity and genuine kindness will never be wiped out. This week, Brant Gniewek and his friends and family prove that kindness often multiplies in the face of tragedy and grief; that not even the most untimely passing of a loved one whose life was cut too short can kill the human spirit, the willingness to give back.

By all accounts, Brant Gniewek was a vibrant, fun-loving, extremely passionate young man who dedicated himself to helping others. This past year, the 30-year old Wrigleyville resident announced he would run 52 races of varying lengths, many of them marathons, to raise money and support those in their fight against cancer. Each week, Gniewek would run one race in honor of a cancer patient, supporting them financially and emotionally in their individual battle. While this was an honorable feat in itself, this philanthropist went one step further. As he continued to map out his year, plan his weekly events, he decided that there was a much bigger idea at play and jump started his own charity, 52 For 52, devoted to raising money that would support the eradication of cancer through early detection.

“As I was planning my races for this year, I came up with the idea to run one race a week for one person to help raise money for them to fight and beat cancer. After playing around with the idea, I came up with 52 For 52 to help fight cancer. The original idea was to [run] 52 races and raise money, but that turned into starting my own charity.” Gniewek said.

There is no doubt that Gniewek’s passion displays kindness rooted in personal sacrifice, giving over both his body and mind to help others. While he may have thought his goal for the first year was small, it was anything but insignificant as evidenced by the interview he gave to Windy City Media Group.

“The first year of my charity, the goal is to just get the word out, race, and get people informed that early-detection is key in fighting this horrible disease,” Gniewek said. “With this being a [new] charity, the goal is to start small and help 52 people. That’s one a week and each race has a goal to raise $375. The first year I am looking to raise $10,000 to help cover the cost of racing, which includes promoting 52 For 52, the registration cost, the cost of travel, and equipment. The other and most important fundraising will be to raise $20,000 to cover the cost of early detection for 52 people.”

With a solid goal and an undeniable appetite for making a difference, Gniewek set off on his new found adventure, certain that he would find success in his biggest challenge to date through the support of his family and friends.

Most tragically, Brant Gniewek suffered and untimely death this past week from what is believed to be a heart attack. While the cause is uncertain, some family and friends believe his heart simply couldn’t hold up under the stress of a demanding career, running regiment and lack of sleep. As such, most would understand if his family and friends were grief stricken, bitter with the idea of the running that may have ultimately taken their loved one away. Quite the opposite, his family and friends have vowed that Gniewek’s passion and commitment would live on through each of them. Those whose support he proclaimed he would need in order to meet his goals is unwavering and, in the end, will prove to be the key element in completing the challenge the was set. To date, the devout fundraiser had run 18 races and was scheduled for another eight. Now, his commitments will be fulfilled by those he originally leaned on for emotional support, people who will run those eight scheduled races and an additional 26 throughout the remainder of 2013.

Gniewek’s genuine spirit and enthusiasm were undeniable and something his friends admired about him. When asked about his friend, Craig Wu told Windy City Media Group that, “Brant was extremely dedicated to his charity and was always looking for the next race to help others beat cancer. His bright blue eyes, witty charm and calm confidence will be missed by anyone who was fortunate enough to have known him.”

While this young man’s heart may not have been strong enough to carry him through, all the love that poured from it touched countless lives and continues to inspire kindness even after his passing. The compassion that Brant Gniewek radiated allows us all to see that true love and kindness knows no bounds and carries on to heal both the recipients and the receivers.

Sending my condolences to Brant Gniewek’s family and friends. I wish you continued passion and success as you work to carry on Brant’s admirable goals. There is no doubt he made the world a kinder more loving place, as will each of you.

Feature Image via Windy City Media Group

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