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UMass ALS Cellucci Fund Boston Marathon Team on track to raise record $100K

Gaby Weilding, left, and Meg Frazier, right, are two of the 10 runners aiming to raise $100,000 for ALS research this year as part of the UMass ALS Cellucci Fund Boston Marathon Team.   

As they make their way 26.2 miles from Hopkinton to Copley Square on April 15, the UMass ALS Cellucci Fund Boston Marathon Team will be the largest group of runners in the team’s 13-year history of raising funds to support ALS research. Ten runners, all who have been touched in some way by amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or Lou Gehrig’s disease, are close to meeting the team’s goal of raising $100,000.

The Cellucci team was awarded 10 runners’ bibs through the Bank of America Boston Marathon Official Charity Program, double the number of badges received recently from the marathon’s previous sponsor.

The UMass ALS Cellucci Fund Boston Marathon Team has raised more than $700,000 since 2012 to drive awareness of ALS and fund related research taking place at UMass Chan and in the lab of Robert H. Brown Jr., DPhil, MD, the Donna M. and Robert J. Manning Chair in Neurosciences and professor of neurology.

“The Cellucci Fund has been really a wonderful resource for us in several different programs, not just my own, in the sense that it provides discretionary funding for some of the newest, most often groundbreaking projects,” said Dr. Brown.

Brown said that there are “probably 50, 60, 70 drugs out there” being pursued by academics and drug companies, which look promising. “What we’re learning is that the more precise the target, the more likely we are to have an important impact. And so that I think is a key lesson that has slightly refocused some of the research efforts in the U.S.”

Gabrielle (Gaby) Weilding, 22, a patient care associate at UMass Memorial Medical Center, has been immersed in the Boston Marathon and raising money for ALS research since childhood in her hometown of Hopkinton. She’s excited to be among the 30,000 runners who will line up on East Main Street on marathon morning.

Weilding has raised money and participated in the Sharon Timlin Memorial 5K: A Race to Cure ALS in Hopkinton since she was about 7 years old. “That grew my interest in ALS research, so just having that history, it’s always had a special place in my heart,” she said.

As a teenager, Weilding was given the chance to visit Brown in his lab as an award for her fundraising. “They gave us a tour of the lab and it was so cool. As somebody who is interested in health care and science, I just thought it was awesome,” she said.

Weilding, who has a bachelor’s degree in exercise science, is applying to accelerated nursing programs to advance her health care career.

Meghan Frazier, 40, of Medford, found the UMass ALS Cellucci Fund to be the right match for fundraising efforts after her aunt was diagnosed with ALS four years ago. At the time her aunt was diagnosed, Frazier had been training to run the 2020 Boston Marathon for a different charity.

“She passed after only nine months of having ALS, and so I knew at that point that if I was going to do charity running again, that (ALS) was the charity I would run for,” Frazier said.

Frazier, who played adult intramural kickball before becoming a runner, found another connection with someone affected by ALS when she visited physical therapist Jake Kennedy for a kickball injury.

A veteran of 37 Boston Marathons who died from ALS in 2020, Kennedy inspired countless runners. His son Zack Kennedy, PhD’19, was mentored by Brown in his lab at UMass Chan. Jake and his wife, Sparky, founded the Jake Kennedy ALS Fund in 2019 to raise money for research at UMass Chan.

Frazier has received widespread support for her fundraising activities such as Super Bowl squares, a March Madness event and partnering with a restaurant, in addition to social media outreach.

“It’s rare, but it’s somehow not,” she said about the disease. “Unfortunately, ALS impacted not only my family, but a couple of co-workers’ and friends’ families as well. And so, I’ve named a couple of them on my page.”

Brown said that the runners who train tirelessly and raise a minimum of $7,500 each for ALS research have “a phenomenal impact.”

“Each one of them has some relationship to ALS and has been impacted in some way by the disease,” he said. “We feel incredibly grateful, not only to the fund in general, but to those runners. It’s very motivating for all of us.”

Other members of the UMass ALS Cellucci Fund Boston Marathon Team include:

  • Katherine Binkoski, Boston
  • Carla Bolduc, Weare, New Hampshire
  • Katie Cahill, West Roxbury
  • Cameron Daly, Dorchester
  • Gavin Hamilton, Kingston
  • Erin Mannion, Hudson
  • Paul McNeil, Worcester
  • Patti Reed Logan, Mansfield

Media coverage:
WCVB-TV: Better by the Mile: Runner laces up to help find a cure for ALS