UMass ALS Cellucci Fund 2019 Boston Marathon team exceeds fundraising goal
In the 2019 Boston Marathon, each runner takes about 55,000 steps to go the distance. And it’s an experience these five UMass ALS Cellucci Fund charity runners will remember for a lifetime. Each of them—Kate, Julie, Teddy, Dan and Mike—all completed the course. They also exceeded their fundraising goal. Together, after months of dedication and hard work, they raised more than $70,000 for ALS research at UMass Medical School.
For all of them, each step of this marathon journey—from getting a bib to training and fundraising to crossing the finish line—was personal and meangingful. One thing they all had in common was tremendous support and encouragement from people across all aspects of their lives.
Was first inspired to run by the story of Gov. Cellucci, then by Judge William Boyle, who retired due to the progression of ALS.
"I did my 20-mile training run the same day our team met with Dr. Brown, Dr. Gao and the research team at UMass. I had never asked my body to run this distance before, and wondered if I would make it.
As I approached mile 20, I remember thinking this was truly the least I could do. The people doing the real hard work are in that research lab day in and day out, looking for a cure. Meeting the research team later that day and seeing their work only further convinced me of that. I went home in awe of their commitment and dedication. To say they TRULY care is an understatement. I’ve never been prouder to call Worcester home.
Since the marathon, I’ve told everyone I’ve talked to how amazing it was to run it, even more so to do it for a cause - a disease that could be cured in our own backyard! Yes, it was a physically and emotionally exhausting experience, and shedding tears at the finish line was inevitable - I couldn't help but think about everyone with a diagnosis of ALS.”
Ran in memory of her uncle, Ron Merrill, who was diagnosed with ALS in April 2018 and died from the disease the following September.
“My mantra since I embarked on this endeavor and all through winter training has been that I wanted to run because my Uncle Ron could not. I wanted to remind myself, and hopefully a few others along the way, how fortunate we are to have our health and that we don’t have to sit back and let our grief consume us. To keep that top of mind, I wore my uncle’s high school ring around my neck during the race.
This is a concept that Gov. Cellucci embodied, and his family continues to embrace in his memory. Dr. Robert Brown and Dr. Fen-Biao Gao and their research teams are the real heroes. I was humbled and honored to have this opportunity to support their amazing work.”
Ran to pay tribute to one of his youth coaches, Richard P. Kennedy, who was diagnosed with ALS three years ago, after spending decades raising money through The Angel Fund, which also supports Dr. Brown’s research, to fund a cure for the disease.
“The best moment of the race for me came during the 24th mile. At this point, I was really struggling and had some hamstring problems. What kept me going was seeing my family and Rich Kennedy’s family on the side of the road. Seeing Rich reminded me of why I was running and motivated me to keep going and finish strong.”
Ran in memory of his father, Donato Leone, who died in 2008 at age 78 from ALS.
“I seriously would not have considered [running for] any other charity! If I was going to run the Boston Marathon to raise money, then the UMass ALS Cellucci Fund was the one. ALS killed my father, who was my hero. I would never wish that diagnosis on anyone.
The final turn onto Boylston St overwhelmed me with emotions. I kept saying out loud, ‘This isn't real.’ BUT IT WAS! I found a burst of energy and 'sprinted' across that finish line. Of course, the official photos from the finish line don't completely support that, but I will still believe it.”
Ran “for those who cannot” and to teach his young children learn the importance of supporting nonprofit organizations like the Cellucci Fund that strive to make a difference for others.
“I moved to Massachusetts in June of 2000, so I learned most of what I know about Gov. Cellucci after his diagnosis, when he began his campaign to battle this horrible disease. When my sister-in-law sent me the link from the Cellucci Fund about looking for runners to join their marathon team, I immediately applied. The overwhelming response I received from family, friends, and my employer in support of my fundraising efforts was amazing.
But, the true moment for me was meeting Jan [Cellucci], Dr. Brown, Dr. Gao, and the incredible team at UMass Medical School who are working tirelessly to fight ALS. The pride they have in every achievement being made, the care they take, and their excitement in us their work really brought it all home for me.
Once I hit the course on Marathon Monday, all I could think of was the late Governor, and his efforts to raise money and awareness about ALS while, quite literally, fighting for his life. That helped to push me along, even when my legs were sore, and my body was telling me to stop. On April 15, 2019, I proudly ran in Governor Cellucci’s memory, and I ran for those who no longer can run for themselves.”