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Running for Rosie - family pays tribute to teen who inspired them

By By CAROLINE GABLE

UTICA, N.Y. (WKTV) - The Boilermaker is just a few weeks away and while that might make first-time runners nervous, it's bringing entirely different emotions to one Central New York Family.

Members of the McKinney family used to spend the Boilermaker watching the runners with everyone's favorite family member - Rosie.

But this year, Rosie is giving them a reason to lace up their sneakers and run.

Rosie's sister, Luann Santelli, describes Rosie as a teenager who gets up at 5 a.m. to cheer on runners taking part in the event. She said that Rosie wanted to be a part of the day as much as possible, despite the fact she was born with several challenges.

Health problems paralyzed her from the waste down at birth, and kept her from running in the race, but never from enjoying it.
Rosie's sister Luann also says her sibling is inspirational.

"It was her dream - she one day wanted to do the Boilermaker and I kept saying to her, 'Rosie no matter what, someday we are going to do it together, even if I have to push you myself,'" Santelli said.

But this year, Rosie's sister can't push Rosie's wheelchair to the finish line, and she never will. Last year at this time, Rosie was diagnosed with H1N1 and it took her life shortly after.

Family members spent Boilermaker Sunday at her wake, instead of their usual spot cheering on runners. In Rosie's casket, a 2009 boilermaker t-shirt.

"She was in awe of the runners," Santelli said. "She watched them like they were celebrities."

Without the light of her life, Rosie's sister was in dark despair.

"We had the most excruciating, painful year, and Christmas was very difficult to have it without her, and I spent a lot of time in deep mourning," she said. "I heard that the Boilermaker registration was opening up and one day it just kind of came over me - I want to do this for her."

So this year, Luann and her family members are running the race together in Rosie's honor.

They say she would have wanted it that way, and they only wish they'd done it sooner. Family members are wearing white t-shirts with pink and red rosebuds on them for the run.

So give an extra cheer if they pass you by on race day, as they say it means more than you could ever know.

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