Best Friends Fundraisers

Grand to Grand 2024 Best Friends Runners

Meet the Best Friends Grand to Grand 2024 team! These amazing, dedicated animal lovers have accepted the ultra challenge to save homeless pets by participating in the Grand to Grand Ultra to raise funds for Best Friends.  

Beginning on September 22, this 275-kilometer (171-mile), seven-day footrace is one of the world’s toughest races and takes place in one of the most remote corners of America. It requires incredible endurance, perseverance, and months of training. Many of those who start do not reach the finish line, and it takes huge physical and mental strength to succeed. Learn more about this legendary feat of endurance at 

I am the senior director of canyon operations for Best Friends Animal Society. My father is Francis Battista, my brother Judah Battista. As a kid, I worked at Best Friends during the summer and for around one year after high school. I enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1991. I spent the next 20+ years in the Marines and in federal service. I graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1997 with a B.S. in systems engineering and graduated from the University of Hawaii at Manoa with natural resources and environmental management. In 2018, I was offered an opportunity to come back to Best Friends and apply the skill sets I have to help the Sanctuary. I jumped at the opportunity. Best Friends has always been a part of me. It is very satisfying to be able to work with a fantastic team that supports all the great animal care workers here at the Sanctuary and at our lifesaving centers.   

I believe all animals have an intrinsic value worthy of love and respect. My wife and I are dog people; we have three to four dogs at any given time. In addition, we have a flock of 30 chickens who free range on our property. 

I have been running ever since I joined the Marinesand have run in numerous races (5Ks, 10Ks, half marathons, and marathons).The coolest race I ever ran was the Mount Fuji Ekiden, which isa relay race to the top of Mount Fuji in Japan. I also ran and finished the Grand to Grand in 2019. That was a great race, and I hope to do better this time, finishing stronger and injury free. 

I think the Grand to Grand is a great event, and Best Friends has been connected with them since its inception we provide logistics support for the race and let them run through the Sanctuary's main campus and its outlying parcels. This race is an opportunity to showcase Best Friends to a group of racers from all over the U.S. and the world. 

I am working with an ultra training coach, and I hope that this will give my training better focus and yield better results. 

I grew up in Southern England and moved to the States in 2015 after interning at the Farm Sanctuary. I spent a lot of my time traveling and backpacking along the West Coast. I lived in California for six years until I moved to Utah in 2021. I love to explore and discover, try new activities, experience the world around me, and test myself, going beyond my limits. 

Working with animals and the land is something that I've always felt driven to do. Over the years I have been pushing myself more and more physically and mentally. I started doing OCR (obstacle course races) a couple years ago and dabbling in trail running, as well as having a history of backpacking and big day hiking. The Grand to Grand seems like a beautiful challenge, and I get to run it in support of the organization I work for and the animals they take care of. 

I primarily work with dogs but have an affinity, care, and respect for animals of all kinds. I've worked with rescued farmedanimals, and they hold a special place in my heart. I can only hope that we as a species do ourbest to make right and be good to the beings we share this planet with. 

I am excited for the upcoming challenge of Grand to Grand and everything it presents — the chance to drop out of society, flow into the grind, get more in touch with myself, test my abilities, and push myself in a way I never have while being surrounded by the beauty of the high desert. 

Noël & Josh 
Josh and Noël are proud parents to their four rescued pups (Reis, Turk, Robin, and Sully) and are believers in overcoming challenges and proving that resilience conquers all. 

Noël is an endurance runner, dog mom, and advocate for pushing boundaries. Despite battling four autoimmune diseases and navigating anxiety/PTSD, she refused to let setbacks define her. A career-ending injury in college led to a dark period, but it also ignited a fire within her to reclaim her life. She set a goal to become a runner and, a year later, crossed the finish line of her first 5K. Since then, she has conquered countless races, multiple ultramarathons, and several 100-mile races, maintaining an 8+ year run streak.And last year she ran just under 8,000 miles across America in 202 days. Through it all, Josh and their furry companions have been unwavering pillars of support. 

Josh's journey is equally inspiring. He's completed the Spartan Race Trifecta, conquered several half marathons, and is an avid hiker and pacer for many races. 

Both Noël and Josh are huge advocates for animals in need. They volunteer at their local shelters and often have at least one foster dog in their house. They do most of their running and hiking miles with their four pups.Together, they founded the Bad Ass Running Crew, empowering others to embrace their inner strength.Now, they are gearing up for their next challenge: the Grand to Grand Ultra in September 2024, all to raise funds for Best Friends Animal Society.  

Why this challenge?It is the perfect storm of a highly physically challenging event with a cause that hits close to home. What better way to continue to help people embrace their inner strength than to pursue such a difficult event and truly walk the walk? 

I'm a data scientist at Best Friends Animal Society,a former university professor, and an avid traveler. Along with my partner and two rescued dogs, I've visited over half of the U.S. national parks, lived on a boat in the Florida Keys, traveled the country in a vintage travel trailer, and will be spending the summer of 2024 as a lighthouse keeper on Seguin Island in Maine. 

My whole life I have had a special connection with animals. As a child, I always had a cat under one arm while I was training my dog to do a new trick. I've never been without a pet. As an adult, I adopted my two hound dogs, Tulah and Zorro, from a rescue group that partnered withshelters that were struggling to save the animals in their care. Shortly after adopting them, I began volunteering as a foster caregiver and helped with adoption coordination. 

I found Kanab in 2022 on a road trip where I was in search of a dog-friendly area to hike and run. I discovered Best Friends and the awesome red rock canyons in the area and felt as though I had stumbled across heaven. I spent a month volunteering at the Sanctuary, running the trails through the canyons, and hiking with my dogs. I decided I needed to become involved with Best Friends and its mission and sought out remote volunteer opportunities. About a yearlater, I was offered my current job on the enterprise analytics team. My family makes it a point to visit the Sanctuary every chance we get to support Best Friends and enjoy the best earth on show! 

I've been running competitively since I was 12 years old. I've raced every distance from a track 100-meter race up to a trail 100miler. I served as a high school cross country coach for five years in Dover, New Hampshire, and I love competing in canicross races with my own dogs, where you race trail 5Ks with your leashed and harnessed pup! I'm an active volunteer and co-race director for a series of races put on by SIX03 Endurance in New Hampshire 

I'm excited to get experience in the stage race format along with other runners from all over the world while getting to support Best Friends work through my fundraising.

I'm a Brit from London but have made Southern California my home for 17.5 years now. I'm an adventurous type and love the outdoors and camping with my pack. I also teach restorative yoga and love nothing more than helping people find peace and calm. I've been with Best Friends Animal Society for 13.5 years in a variety of roles. My current role as annual giving officer has me working with our wonderful supporters — helping to keep them informed and inspired about the work they are helping to support with their generosity.

I want to do something to give back to the organization that has given me so much over the years. Animals have always been my No. 1 passion, so to be able to make a living while saving them has truly been a blessing. I suffered a huge setback last year while training for the Grand to Grand 2023: I broke my ankle and ended up in a boot. I'm back now healed and ready for my redemption race! I also lost my heart dog, Angel, the week of the race after a long seven-month battle with lymphoma. I'm not only running for all the homeless animals, but I'm running to honor her memory.

I've loved animals since I was a little girl adopting my first dog, Chachi, aged 13. Before joining Best Friends, I worked in a municipal shelter, and it was the hardest — but most rewarding — three years of my life. Working in a shelter is like being on a roller coaster for 10 hours a day. You have the ultimate high when you send a dog home with a loving family; you feel relief when a caregiver comes in to pick up that freshly spayed community cat who's spent most of her life pregnant. But every day you also look into the eyes of all the innocent animals who aren't going to make it out of the shelter alive. Whenever I have a “meh” day, I think about all those animals I couldn't save and all the ones who still need saving. I often visualize the day we get called into a surprise Zoom meeting and Best Friends CEO Julie Castle makes the announcement that the United States is no-kill. I want to be able to look back to a time in history and say, yes, I helped make that happen.

I found running in high school and loved the solitude and the feeling of accomplishment it brought with it. Grown-up life swept me away, and it wasn't until I emigrated here in 2006 in my mid-30s that I found my running legs again. In 2008 I joined a local running club and trained for my first marathon. I finished the race in a very respectable time and raised almost $5,000 for the animals at the shelter. It was supposed to be a one-and-done, but like Forrest Gump, I just kept running. Over the next 10 years I ran 23 marathons, including two Bostons, countless halves, 10Ks, 5Ks, mud runs, Ragnar Relay, and the exclusive Hood to Coast relay in Oregon. I even travelled to races in far-flung places like Cuba, Costa Rica, Croatia, and Jamaica. Since the pandemic I've had a few injuries that have slowed me down. My days of pounding the unforgiving pavements as fast as I can might be in the past, but I'm embracing the softer and more forgiving surface of the trail.

Grand to Grand is an exclusive, international, bucket-list race, and people travel from all over the world to complete it — it's an honor to take part. I'm looking forward to meeting all the other competitors and hearing their life stories and discovering what their passion in life is. I'm also looking forward to training hard and making it to the start time strong and injury-free. I dream of being able to say, "I'm an ultra runner. I just completed the hardest race in the world."


View More