Beloit College Magazine

Beloit College Magazine

Winter 2017 (January 30, 2017 at 8:00 am)

Best Friends Forever


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January 10, 2017 at 4:40 pm
By Susan Kasten

[W17] Tessa Heady’98 and Jenni Kleinman Berebitsky’98 

Tessa Heady’98, shown at left, traveled from Seattle, Wash., to Indianapolis, Ind., last September to join her best friend Jenni Kleinman Berebitsky’98 in the ALS walk held annually in central Indiana. A loving circle of around 75 friends and family of Jenni’s joined them. The group that goes by the name “The J Team” came together that day and raised more than $9,300 for a cure for ALS.

Jenni was a dancer, runner, biker, and swimmer before doctors diagnosed her with ALS, commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. That was seven years ago, and she was only 33, married just three years to the love of her life, Jeff. At the time, they were still new parents of 18-month-old Philip, and Jenni was finishing up the last year of her medical residency.

Even with ALS and using a wheelchair, Jenni has completed two triathlons with the extraordinary support of her friends and loved ones. In the most recent triathlon, husband Jeff towed her in a boat for the swimming portion, while another friend biked behind her wheelchair, and yet another pushed her wheelchair during the running segment.

Tessa clearly remembers meeting Jenni for the first time at Beloit while walking laps in the Field House. The two became great friends and moved to Seattle together after graduation. They’ve stayed close ever since.

Tessa describes the ALS walk as a fun event, but also a very honest experience. “You are moving among teams, like our own, with a champion like Jenni with us,” she says. “And you are among teams walking in memory of those who have died of ALS.”

Last year, 170 people traveled to Indianapolis from all corners of the country to celebrate Jenni’s 40th birthday. The party and Jenni’s story were featured in the local IndyStar newspaper. Jenni wrote what she called “a speechless speech” for the event, capturing her thoughts and gratitude in writing that was printed on a poster for those attending her party to read.

“To live a normal life is ordinary,” she wrote. “I live an extraordinary life. There is beauty and humor everywhere.”

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