Out of the Race, But Optimism Keeps Playmaker's Goals in the Running

Anne Wilson

March 24, 2023

Optimism over Adversity – it’s what Playmakers practice. For one Playmaker, who had set her sights on tackling the storied Boston Marathon course this spring, optimism means keeping goals in focus even in the face of a race-ending injury.

Gabrielle Vazza is passionate about mental health and about working with children. “I love kids, I always knew I wanted to work in a school,” she said. “I found a passion for running during Covid… it’s a huge stress release.”

Gabrielle was training to run the 2023 Boston Marathon as a charity runner to benefit the Life is Good Playmaker Project when, unfortunately, a stress fracture ended that dream. A Playmaker herself, she’s keeping a positive outlook and keeping the kids she works with, and other Playmakers in mind and heart as she continues to try to reach her fundraising goal.

“Playmakers spread optimism and joy for so many kids that might not otherwise get a chance to show their better selves,” she said. “One person can be a positive role model in a kid’s life, it can change that kid’s life forever... and if that pattern continues, so many kids’ lives can be changed, drastically, for the better.”

Gabrielle already practices this pattern building first-hand in her work in a middle school program for kids with social, emotional, and behavioral needs.

“Almost all my kids have been through some sort of trauma,” she said, adding that it’s not hard to see why they’d speak negatively at times. To help them find hope and healing in the face of difficulty, she role models optimism, emphasizes their unique talents, and she works hard to help them see the good around them to ensure they feel like they have a safe space and someone they can trust.

On her fundraising page, Gabrielle wrote that her Playmaker Training has “greatly improved her own clinical work” and helped her to be “a better support for her most vulnerable and troubled students.” After she finishes her master’s degree in Counseling Psychology later this year, Gabrielle plans to work as a school adjustment counselor.

“Life changing relationships, and their impact on kids’ mental health, are such important things and they don’t get enough attention – and especially right now,” she said. “For so many years of their childhood they couldn’t do normal things, and many of them were home alone or with very little contact, they need these relationships and encouragement.” 

The 127th running of the Boston Marathon will take place on April 17, 2023. Visit Gabrielle’s Fundraising page, or the Life is Good Playmaker Project website, to support her and Playmakers everywhere!