Sarah Coglianese, 40, writer and award-winning goodwill ambassador, died peacefully at home surrounded by family on Nov. 12, 2018. Born in her home in Oak Park on Nov. 4, 1978, Sarah developed a love of literature and the arts at an early age. The eldest of four children, she was intelligent, imaginative, and curious and began devouring books and reading to her younger siblings by the age of 4 and writing her own stories soon after.
An alumnus of Oak Park and River Forest High School, she served as an editor of the yearbook, vice president of SADD, and played on the soccer team. Upon receiving her Bachelor of Arts in Journalism from the University of Wisconsin Madison, she began her 11-year career in publishing at Perseus books, in San Francisco and New York City, working as a personal publicist for travel writer Rick Steves and Moon Travel Handbooks and later for Perseus Distribution.
In a chance work meeting in 2005, she met Rob Goulding, a sales and publishing professional, who lived in New York. She called her sister, Liz, immediately after the meeting and told her, “I just met the man I’m going to marry.” They wed in 2008 in an intimate ceremony near the Belvedere Castle in Central Park, New York.
In 2007, Sarah began penning Deepish Thoughts, a blog that detailed her everyday life in New York. Initially meant for family and friends, she honed her honest, hilarious voice into a blog that quickly spread to extended acquaintances and strangers alike.
In 2009, she and her husband moved back to the Haight-Ashbury District in San Francisco and welcomed their daughter Scarlett into the world in March 2010. Sarah found her life’s renewed purpose in raising her daughter and developed another blog, The Scarlett Letters, in which she chronicled life as a young mother in San Francisco and Scarlett’s incredible moxie and imaginative spirit. Once again, her audience grew far and wide outside of her family and friends and led to Sarah publishing pieces in other outlets.
An avid runner with one marathon under her belt and no previous signs of poor health, in 2012 at age 33, Sarah was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a neurological disease that causes muscles to weaken and eventually atrophy. Soon after her diagnosis, Sarah became an ambassador for the Young Faces of ALS and ALS TDI, an advisory board member for the Every 90 Minutes Foundation, and created her own nonprofit fundraising organization, #Speed4Sarah, with the goal of raising awareness of, funding for, and ultimately developing a cure for the uniformly fatal disease.
Under the #Speed4Sarah initiative, Sarah developed the annual #WhatWouldYouGive campaign, which challenged individuals to give up something that is lost by people with ALS for a day, such as their hands, legs or voice. She also again began writing, this time about the daily ins and outs of her young life in the face of a terminal illness, with often heartbreaking and hilarious detail. Her writings and initiatives received attention not only across the nation, but internationally as well, encouraging bike rides, concert series and the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge in 2015. The #Speed4Sarah organization has raised over $1,000,000 to date and continues to operate as a fundraising arm for ALS awareness and research.
Through her life’s work as a writer and ambassador, Sarah has been published in the New York Times, Scary Mommy, CNN.com, and Redbook Magazine, among others. She has been honored with the Stephen Milne Adventurous Spirit Award (2015), the Tradition of Excellence Award from OPRF High School (2017), and the Forward Under 40 Award from the University of Wisconsin Madison (2018).
Sarah Coglianese is survived by her husband, Robert Goulding; her daughter, Scarlett; her parents, Joseph and Anne; her brothers, Michael and Paul; her sister, Elizabeth (Robert); and her grandmother, Catherine Kay, along with extended family and friends.
Memorial services will be held in San Francisco and Chicago. Details will be posted online at speed4sarah.com.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made in memory of Sarah to ALS TDI.