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Gov. Cellucci Tribute Road Race brings hundreds out to support ALS research at UMass Medical School

By Megan Bard, with video by Michela Del Po

UMass Medical School Communications

July 27, 2015

   Internationally known ALS researcher Robert H. Brown Jr., DPhil, MD, talks to the crowd assembled at the 2nd Annual Governor Cellucci Tribute Road Race, as Jan Cellucci, Gov. Charlie Baker, and Cellucci’s grandchildren, Gabriel, Francesca and Rhys look on.
 

Internationally known ALS researcher Robert H. Brown Jr., DPhil, MD, talks to the crowd assembled at the 2nd Annual Governor Cellucci Tribute Road Race, as Jan Cellucci, Gov. Charlie Baker, and Cellucci’s grandchildren, Gabriel, Francesca and Rhys look on.

   
  Chancellor Michael F. Collins, Gov. Charlie Baker and Robert H. Brown, Jr., DPhil, MD, attend the 2nd Annual Governor Cellucci Tribute Road Race to support ALS research at UMass Medical School.
 

Chancellor Michael F. Collins, Gov. Charlie Baker and Robert H. Brown Jr., DPhil, MD, attend the 2nd Annual Governor Cellucci Tribute Road Race to support ALS research at UMass Medical School.

   

Nearly 950 runners and walkers participated in the 2nd Annual Governor Cellucci Tribute Road Race in Hudson on Saturday, July 25, in honor of the late Gov. Paul Cellucci’s commitment to fund ALS research at UMass Medical School, and his lifelong dedication to public service. The race through Hudson’s historic downtown benefited the UMass ALS Cellucci Fund, launched by the former governor to fund research into a cure after he was diagnosed with the disease.    

“Our medical school is one of the foremost, if not the foremost, ALS research institutions in the world,” Chancellor Michael F. Collins told the crowd assembled before the race.  “The governor realized that and he wanted in every way possible to support us finding a cure for ALS. Your presence here today is a very large statement reaffirming his commitment.” 

Gov. Charlie Baker described the late governor as a public servant “to his core,” adding that he had never met anyone with more commitment and passion to a cause and public service.

“In some ways, all of you today here supporting this program are continuing the legacy,” Baker said. 

The goal of the UMass ALS Cellucci Fund is to establish an endowment to seed the boldest research ideas in the interdisciplinary laboratories at UMMS under the direction of Robert H. Brown, DPhil, MD, the Leo P. and Theresa M. LaChance Chair in Medical Research and chair and professor of neurology, and one of the world’s foremost authorities on ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis). Cellucci died in June 2013 from complications of ALS. He was 65.

Dr. Brown thanked race participants for their support in contributing to the funds that enable the ALS labs at UMMS to continue their efforts in developing fast-track, potentially high-risk, high-reward research.

Roughly $3.5 million in gifts and pledges have been raised as of July 25 toward the goal of $10 million.

“There have never been more exciting ideas about how to treat this disease,” Brown said, adding that he hopes that the research underway will, within the year, yield available therapies for ALS patients. “Each and every day we wake up and work to find a cure for this disease.”

For Nicole Ferrari, participating in Saturday’s race was personal. Ferrari, who walked with her son Chase Garcia and daughter Avery Garcia and whose husband, like Cellucci, is from Hudson, was diagnosed with ALS four years ago.

“So we’re here to support their cause, support ALS research and to have fun,” Ferrari said. 

Jan Cellucci said the presence of nearly 1,100 people (runners, walkers and volunteers) meant an incredible amount to her and daughters Kate Cellucci and Anne Cellucci Adams.

“You’re helping our family continue the fund that Paul began. He would be so proud of all of you for joining us,” Jan Cellucci said.

Former Gov. William Weld and Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito welcomed the runners and joined runners at the starting line. Polito ran the race along with several former colleagues of Gov. Cellucci. Jan and Paul Cellucci’s four grandchildren, Rhys, Francesca and Lucia Adams and Gabriel Westberg, also attended, with Rhys having double duty of joining Weld with the countdown to the start.

For complete race results, visit the Governor Cellucci Tribute Road Race webpage on racewire.com. To learn more about the UMass ALS Cellucci Fund, visit the fund website. For more photos from the event, visit https://www.flickr.com/photos/umassmedicalschool/