Women’s History Month: Raleigh’s Andrea Peet brings awareness to ALS

Andrea Peet trains for her next marathon to raise awareness for ALS. (Photo courtesy WFU)

Throughout the month of March the NSJ will be celebrating the remarkable contributions of North Carolina women for Women’s History Month

For Andrea Lytle Peet, a native of Raleigh, bravery is not an option; it is a daily imperative to experience life to the fullest.  And for Peet it is not just her life that she feels called to live fully, but she strives to inspire others to find their own form of “brave.”  

At the age of 33, Peet was given the devastating news that she had amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or what is more commonly known as ALS. Now nearly eight years later, not only is Andrea still moving and thriving, but she has raised over three quarters of a million dollars to help in the fight to end ALS through her foundation, Team Drea. She has attracted the interests of filmmakers and the media along the way, all toward the goal of raising awareness around ALS and money for research. Peet’s courageous journey is why we celebrate her as a North Carolina heroine this Women’s History month.

For anyone who has ever met Peet, two phrases that could be easily used to describe her are “exceptionally positive” and “goal driven.” Prior to her diagnosis in 2009, Peet, a city planner by trade, had become an avid runner as a newlywed living in Washington, D.C. According to her husband, David “what started out as four miles turned into ten miles turned into competing in races and marathons. Andrea is an incremental overachiever.” 

Peet decided that through the use of a trike she would continue with her love of racing despite her diagnosis. After what she once thought was her last race, she now races all over the country to raise money and awareness for ALS.  With the motto of “Go on, be brave,” she and David established the Team Drea Foundation. 

“When I was diagnosed with ALS I thought I might only have two years to live, I wanted to leave a legacy that would prevent other families from going through this awful disease. So I challenged friends to do a race that would be outside their comfort zone — I wanted them to have that experience of crossing the finish line of a race they weren’t sure they could complete — and use the experience to raise money for ALS research. So far 200 people have taken the “Team Drea Challenge,” said Peet.

Peet’s personal goal is to complete marathon races in all 50 of the United States. Earlier this month Peet competed in her 48th race in California, which will be followed by her 49th in Brooklyn, N.Y. in April and her 50th in Alaska in May. This final race will celebrate eight years of courage in the fight against ALS. To commemorate these final races, Team Drea is hosting a 50 for 50 challenge in honor of Peet’s 50th race. The goal is to reach $50,000 before May by encouraging people to take on a physical or personal challenge of their own, incorporating the number 50. 

Peete explains “this could be anything from walking 50 miles to doing 50 pushups per day to doing 50 random acts of kindness. My college roommate is a picky eater and is challenging herself to eating 50 new foods! The point is to be brave in your own way. For a $50 donation, we will send a keepsake gift reminder to people to ask themselves, ‘What’s your brave?’”

Along the journey, Peet has made countless friends and inspired many with her positivity, purpose and drive.  Peet shared prior to her California race the following: “A woman saw my story a year after being diagnosed with ALS herself. She had run the Chicago Marathon for 20 years straight and wanted to stay alive.  So she bought a trike. We’re actually meeting this weekend for the first time in California — she is going to do the 10K while I finish my 48th marathon. She’s planning to come to Alaska to do her first marathon while I finish my 50th.  I’m so excited for her! It’s not a cure for ALS, but it’s the next best thing — Hope!” 

Peet has strong and hopeful advice for anyone facing ALS or anyone struggling with any major diagnosis or life altering circumstance: “Your story is not yet written — only YOU can write it. I do not believe that I am the only person with ALS capable of doing marathons. Regardless if that is your path or passion, now is the time to start living, to make memories, to make a difference in the world. You can do this or be depressed, time will pass either way. We are all on this earth for a short time, and tomorrow is not promised.” 

Peet is quick to remind her audience that ALS is not an incurable disease, just underfunded. While there were once only a handful of trials, now there are hundreds, and her choice to be brave has other ALS advocates now leading the charge for a cure.

To support the Team Drea Foundation, visit www.teamdrea.org/donate.