By Mia Groeninger
The documentary, Go On, Be Brave, recently premiered at this year’s Santa Barbara International Film Festival and follows the journey of Andrea Lytle Peet after a life changing diagnosis of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, ALS.
Director Miriam McSpadden is an award winning cinematographer and has been featured on channels such as NBC, ESPN, and the Today Show. Co-director, Brian Beckman, is a self-taught filmmaker with a passion for spreading awareness and telling the stories of underrepresented individuals or groups. When Andrea and her husband, Dave Peet, asked the two if her story was worth telling in the form of a documentary, they were eager to get started.
Andrea and Dave got married in 2009. She lived a fairly ordinary life as an urban planner and triathlon athlete, and the two were planning to start a family. At the age of 33, Andrea was diagnosed with ALS, a rapidly debilitating disease where people lose the ability to move, speak, and eventually breathe. From the time of this fearful diagnosis, patients face a shortened lifespan of two to five years.
In 2014, after quickly losing some function in her legs, Andrea wanted to complete what she thought would be “her last race.” She transitioned to a recumbent trike, a customized three wheel vehicle. From this moment forward, instead of waiting for death and the inevitability of this disease, she chose hope and to live life to the fullest every single day. She set a goal of completing a marathon in each state on her trike.
Andrea faced an incredible amount of setbacks, especially when the pandemic hit, with races being canceled. Yet, she persevered and continued to work to spread awareness about ALS through her foundation, Team Drea. Not only has this nonprofit raised over one million dollars for ALS research, but it created a community and support system that was incredibly inspired by Drea’s story. She touches the hearts of many who struggle with this disease or have lost loved ones and constantly reminds them that despite its devastating effects, you can still live a life worth living.
Drea’s husband, Dave, is also a hero. He remembers their wedding vows to take care of one another in sickness and in health. At Drea’s 50th marathon in Alaska, she was accompanied by Dave, fellow ALS patients, doctors, and many supporters from all over the nation who came to witness this magnificent feat.
She had acknowledged her weakening state, eight years after being diagnosed, but was determined to advocate for those who could not and accomplish her dream. In the final stretch, as she struggled to pedal up a hill in the high altitude, people gathered around her, cheering as she crossed the finish line, completing her fiftieth marathon and achieving what everyone thought to be impossible.
A tearjerker, this film shows that giving a voice is “the difference between choosing to fight and choosing to end your life.”
Excessive physical exercise is not recommended for people with ALS, but Andrea felt the responsibility to the community. In May 2022, she became the first person with ALS to do a marathon in all 50 states.
Andrea is such an inspiration because of how she has persevered and chose hope time and time again. She is showing the world that a disability does not have to define someone. In this way, she plays a major role in destigmatizing and humanizing disabilities and promotes more empathy and compassion.
Mia is a high school student in Santa Barbara County and an intern for edhat.com