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Runners taking part in the Boston Marathon.
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Stories of your support

Boston Marathoners race to find a cure for ALS

On Oct. 11, 2021, the Boston Marathon triumphantly returned after going virtual in 2020 due to the pandemic. This postponed-to-fall 2021 race was soon followed by the 2022 race on April 18, marking a return to the traditional Patriots’ Day staging. Largely considered the pinnacle of all marathons—to “Boston Qualify” or “BQ” is the ultimate goal of runners worldwide—this iconic race carries deep significance for the ALS community and UMass Chan Medical School.

For over a decade, teams of runners have faced the notoriously challenging, 26.2-mile racecourse to support groundbreaking ALS research at the Medical School. Thanks to both the runners and their supporters, who are often family and friends making smaller donations, this important fundraising vehicle has brought in more than $600,000.

Brothers Dean Kennedy and Chip Kennedy ran the 2022 marathon on behalf of the Jake Kennedy ALS Fund, an effort launched by the Kennedy family to support ALS research at UMass Chan. Seasoned runner Bernie Alcock also joined the team, which raised almost $39,000. Dean and Chip’s father Jake Kennedy, himself a passionate Boston Marathoner who ran the race 37 times, died from ALS in 2020.

In addition, the UMass ALS Celluci Fund continued a decade-plus tradition by fielding a dedicated team of runners at both the 2021 and 2022 marathons, raising close to $100,000. The Cellucci Fund, formerly known as the UMass ALS Champion Fund, was launched under the leadership of the late Massachusetts Gov. Paul Cellucci, who died from ALS in 2013. Gov. Cellucci used his story as a catalyst to support ALS research, and in particular the important breakthroughs of Robert H. Brown Jr., DPhil, MD, the Donna M. and Robert J. Manning Chair in Neurosciences and professor of neurology.

Ten runners signed on for the Cellucci Fund team between both marathons. Many have seen close family or friends diagnosed with ALS. As runner Carol Castiglia stated, “My oldest brother was diagnosed with ALS three years ago. Running the Boston Marathon on the Cellucci Fund team is the only way I can contribute to finding a cure.” Some are healthcare professionals who work with terminally ill patients. Brittany Dellechiaie a nurse practitioner at UMass Memorial Medical Center’s neurosurgery department, noted that she’s determined to be part of finding a treatment or cure for ALS after seeing families navigate terminal illness on a regular basis.

Runners on the 2021 Cellucci Fund marathon team included Todd Brisky; Carol Castiglia; Heather Forchilli; Scott Ober; and Vinay Sampson, while the 2022 Celucci Fund team roster included Brittany Dellechiaie; Douglas Golenbock, MD; Madelyn Jaroch; Phillip Kinnison; and Paul McNeil.

As one of the world's foremost authorities on ALS, Dr. Brown is making extraordinary advances in efforts to combat ALS, for which there are currently no effective treatments. For example, Dr. Brown’s team recently identified a motor neuron toxin associated with ALS. Also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, ALS is a devasting, progressive neurodegenerative disorder involving the loss of motor neurons that control voluntary muscles.

“All of us in the ALS research team here at UMass Chan Medical School are deeply grateful to these remarkable individuals who are running this year’s Boston Marathon in support of the Cellucci Fund,” said Dr. Brown ahead of the 2022 event. “We recognize how much time and effort this race entails, both in training and in the run itself. These runners will have a very substantial impact on ALS research at UMass Chan.”