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Manlius AVM survivor inspires Chocolate Challenge 5K

Chocolate Challenge t-shirts on display at the Winter Fair. (Photo: CNYCentral)

Inside the first ever Winter Fair at the New York State Fairgrounds, booth number 73 stood out from the rest. A booth for Kelleigh's Cause.

22-year-old Kelleigh Gustafson was diagnosed with arteriovenous malformation (AVM) at a young age. The extremely rare condition means your arteries and veins don't connect properly. "Most doctors have never heard of it let alone your friends and family," said Kelleigh. "So when you're diagnosed it can feel very isolating."

She and her family were raising awareness this weekend by promoting their second annual Chocolate Challenge 5K walk & run. Racers will be greeted with medals and plenty of chocolate at the finish line. "We were trying to see what's really out there right now and there's not many chocolate races....for how many people love chocolate we decided to pursue it," said Kelleigh.

The Manlius native said the support from the community has been incredible. Including the ten or so chocolate companies who sponsored last year's race held at LeMoyne College.

Kelleigh said she wants people to know they're not alone. "We started this to try to raise awareness for it so that people have an avenue to turn towards. It's rare and it doesn't have a cure. There's very aggressive treatments towards it. With the money we raise we're funding research to try less invasive treatments for AVM."

The Columbia University student said they expected 100 runners in their 2018 race. More than 800 racers showed up in support.

This year's race is set for Saturday, July 27th. The Chocolate Challenge will take place around Sharkey's Bar & Grill in Liverpool. To sign up head to chocolatechallenge.org.


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