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Boston marathoners run for the Cellucci Fund

By Ellie Castano

UMass Medical School Communications

April 16, 2014

Boston MarathonEach of the eight people who will be participating in the Boston Marathon in support of the UMass ALS Cellucci Fund has a unique connection to former Gov. Paul Cellucci, to the disease that took his life last year, or to the institution that he believed would find a cure.

Wade Appelman lost his wife Sharon to ALS and is running in her honor. Chris Anderson was good friends with Cellucci and will be running, with his daughter Carly, in Cellucci’s memory. Chris Benyo and his wife Denise Dimarzo (who has ALS) are participating in a Boston Marathon together for the first time. Jeanne Ficociello was a college roommate of Cellucci’s daughter Anne and is raising money in support of the UMMS research that Cellucci championed. Charles Desourdy is continuing a tradition he started three years ago—running in support of the cutting-edge ALS research being done at UMass Medical School. And Maria Sosa, MD, a UMMS assistant professor of medicine and a nephrologist at UMass Memorial Medical Center, wants to give back to her community.

The UMass ALSCellucci Fund is an initiative to drive awareness and funding for the ALS breakthroughs happening at UMass Medical School and in the laboratory of Robert H. Brown Jr., DPhil, MD, the Leo P. and Theresa M. LaChance Chair in Medical Research, chair and professor of neurology and one of the world’s leading ALS researchers.

The Cellucci Fund was chosen to be part of the John Hancock nonprofit marathon program, which provides official race numbers to those who commit to raising $7,500 to support the ALS research being conducted at UMMS. The marathon is Monday, April 21.

Carly Anderson is raising money for the UMass ALS Cellucci Fund because she believes in the medical research being conducted at UMass Medical School and wants to support families affected by this devastating disease. She is an AmeriCorps volunteer and a 2012 graduate of Notre Dame University, where she was on the women’s rowing team. This is Carly’s first Boston Marathon.

Like his daughter Carly, Chris Anderson is running the Boston Marathon for the first time. He was motivated to tackle this item on his bucket list because he wanted to support his good friend Paul Cellucci. Chris, who is president of the Massachusetts High Technology Council, remembers Gov. Cellucci for his steadfast support and unwavering commitment to making life better for all people across the commonwealth. “Paul will be sorely missed,” said Chris. “But his generous spirit and many contributions will never be forgotten.”

Wade Appelman is running the Boston Marathon in memory of his wife, Sharon, who lost her life to ALS in March 2012. Throughout her illness, she didn’t want to be treated differently and inspired her friends and family with her selfless attitude. Wade and their children Chris, Brian and Brendan look forward to paying tribute to Sharon by raising money for the Cellucci Fund in the hopes that other families won’t have to lose their mother, wife and best friend.

When Chris Benyo and his wife Denise Dimarzo of North Aurora, Ill., got married in June 2010, they were both physically active, often spending time biking, rollerblading and skiing. While Chris was an avid marathoner, Denise was new to running, so they pledged to run a marathon together. Just six months after their wedding, however, Denise was diagnosed with ALS. After the diagnosis, the couple made adjustments in their daily lives and to their future plans, but they did not want to give up their goal of completing a marathon together. Since then, they have completed as a duo team several marathons in NJ (Denise’s home state) and are excited to participate in the 2014 Boston Marathon—the first time they will do it together. Chris has run 30 marathons, including four in Boston.

This will be the third time Charlie Desourdy is running the Boston Marathon in support of the UMass ALS Cellucci Fund. A longtime runner and a former employee of UMass Medical School, Charlie knows that every bit of fundraising helps and he wants to contribute to the great progress that Dr. Brown and his team are making in the battle against ALS. Charlie anticipates that he will run and raise money each year this opportunity exists.

Jeanne Ficociello is a veterinarian at the VCA South Shore Hospital in South Weymouth and has a very personal connection to the UMass ALS Cellucci Fund—in college, Gov. Cellucci’s daughter Anne was a roommate and good friend. Jeanne has always been active. She was captain of her lacrosse team at Harvard and has participated in three Boston Marathons and the New York Marathon. While her intention was to run in the 2014 Boston Marathon, unfortunately she finds that she cannot. However, Jeanne is continuing to raise money to support the Cellucci Fund.

Marie Sosa, MD, a nephrologist at UMass Memorial Medical Center and an assistant professor of medicine at UMMS, has a passion for giving back. She has earned three teaching awards at UMMS and finds it truly rewarding to serve the Latino population in Worcester. She is running the 2014 Boston Marathon because it is another way she can support the UMMS community.

Last year’s team of runners raised nearly $57,000, bringing the total amount of money raised by marathon runners supporting the UMass ALS Cellucci Fund to $137,000. This year’s team is working hard to add to that success. To learn more about the team, visit the UMass ALS Cellucci Fund website.