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Boston Marathon runners train in support of ALS research


The eight people running the Boston Marathon to support amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) research at UMass Medical School share a love of running and a desire to support a cause that touches them all in different ways. Now, in addition to stepping up their training to conquer those heartbreaking hills of Newton, each member of the group is also working hard to raise at least $5,000 for the UMass/ALS Champion Fund.

Four of the eight runners have close ties to UMMS: One is a Graduate School of Biomedical Science student; one works for Information Services; one is a registered nurse at UMass Memorial Medical Center; and another is a former employee who works frequently for the Medical School as a freelance photographer. Other team members have connections to former Gov. Paul Cellucci, who is living with the disease and helped launch the UMass/ALS Champion Fund last spring, or know other people affected by ALS.

“As a scientist-in-training, I know how difficult it is to get funding these days,” said Anna Serquina, a PhD student. “The UMass/ALS Champion Fund, which engages the community directly, has the potential to make a great impact in getting the science done right here at UMass Medical School.”

The UMass/ALS Champion Fund will help researchers pursue leads and breakthroughs right now that might otherwise take years to attract funding from traditional sources. The fund will support the laboratory of Robert H. Brown Jr., DPhil, MD, chair and professor of neurology, a national leader in ALS research. Cellucci is being treated by Dr. Brown at UMass Memorial.

“I knew that the combination of this great marathon event and this important cause was an excellent opportunity to help raise support for and awareness of ALS. I’m really looking forward to helping and participating,” said Charles Desourdy, associate chief information officer of enterprise networks.

“I have always dreamed of running the Boston Marathon, but never thought it was possible until I ran my first marathon last October,” said Rob Carlin, owner of Robert Carlin Photography. “Being able to run Boston and raise money to help others makes this experience a win-win.”

“It is a great cause,” said Cindy Palmer, RN, a nurse in the Pediatric ICU at UMass Memorial who has run two Worcester Half Marathons. “I will always remember the devastating progression of ALS in Jenny, a patient I took care of for a year as a new nurse. I have worked at UMass for over 24 years, and I am proud that such phenomenal ALS research is being done right here at UMass. I have wanted to run the Boston Marathon as a personal challenge since I started running four years ago, and I am motivated and honored to be able to run this ultimate marathon while raising money for such a worthwhile cause.”

Other runners have personal connections to Gov. Cellucci, or know a loved one affected by this debilitating disease that has no cure.

“I am running in honor of Governor Cellucci. He has had a great impact on my life in many ways and I believe that dedicating myself to this goal, both in its physical requirements and the fundraising ones, I can begin to express how much he has meant to me and to my family,” said Philip Frattaroli, owner of Ducali Pizzeria in Boston, who has already raised more than $15,000.

“The disease really hit home when my best friend’s father was diagnosed with ALS. I want to show support for my friend and her family by raising awareness about ALS and raising money for research,” said Joshua Jabaut of Saranac, NY, who was recently accepted to the University of Vermont’s College of Medicine as a medical student. “I have been volunteering for charities for a few years and am a competitive runner. This opportunity allows me to use two of my talents to help an important cause.”

The other members of the team are Michael Traverse of Dorchester and Ram Viswanathan of Chennai, India.