Overwhelming Response at NF Walk / 5K for Children’s Tumor Foundation
On Sunday, October 14th, an enthusiastic group of 264 runners, walkers, and strollers kicked off a clear, crisp Autumn morning on the challenging Holmdel Park 3.1 mile championship cross-country course for the first annual NF Walk / 5K for the Children’s Tumor Foundation.
The event was organized to fund Neurofibromatosis (NF) research and medical programs through the Children’s Tumor Foundation and raise public awareness of NF.
As of the start over $36,000 was raised for NF research and as of Monday, October 15th that total had grown to over $41,000 through registrations and donations that came in during the event itself.
After some cautionary last-minute instructions from planning committee member Karen Connors about the unique challenges of the difficult cross-country course, warnings about the infamous “bowl” and answered questions about the terrain, the runners took off to an “on your mark, get set, go!” from planning committee member John McCarthy and to enthusiastic cheers from the crowd of NF Walk participants who were waiting nearby.
Following the start of the 5K, the NF Walk participants – including many children with NF – began their 2.75 mile trek along the beautiful trails of Holmdel Park and the “stroller derby” parade participants got their strollers, and little red wagons rolling around the park’s paved paths.
“When the idea of the NF Walk in Holmdel first came up, we were expecting we would see 50-75 participants and that we might raise $5,000 - $6,000 for NF research,” said race organizer John McCarthy. “The response from the community across the State of New Jersey has been overwhelming and far exceeded our most optimistic expectations. People are here today who have NF and told us they had never met another NF “Hero” - a person with NF. At the start of the Walk, we took a photo with the NF Heroes and I couldn’t believe how many people are here from this area who are living with NF every day. It is truly inspiring.”
Lance Kovac of Bordentown was the first to reach the 5K Run finish in a time of 21:54 and Erica DiNapoli of Ocean was 2nd in a time of 22:23.
Other top male finishers were Gary Gross of Holmdel (25:21) and David Korman of Manalapan (25:37) and the other top female finishers were Jennifer Jones of Aberdeen (29:00) and Amanda Colannino of Bradley Beach (30:06) as they ran past a finish clock provided by John Kuhi.
The Colts Neck High School ROTC cadets served at the water stop at Mile 1 and 2 of the course, and volunteers from as far away as New York and Pennsylvania, including members of the girls varsity cross country team from Pope Paul VI High School in Haddonfield and their coach, served as course marshals for the event and provided the water stop at the finish.
At the finish were the Holmdel First Aid Squad offering assistance along with EMT volunteer Jeffrey Mitchell and RN volunteer Carole Mitchell of Monmouth Beach. Carole is also the NF Clinic Coordinator for the Neurofibromatosis Clinic at NYU Medical Center, one of the Children’s Tumor Foundation’s 44 NF Clinic Network affiliates across the United States.
“In order for a tumor cell to become malignant, the signaling pathway must cross over the NF gene,” said Tara Skirzenski of Mendham, a member of the national board of directors of the Children’s Tumor Foundation. “The research being funded by the Foundation not only benefits NF patients, but anyone suffering with any tumor disorder including cancer.”
Participants in the 2.75 mile NF Walk started arriving at the finish line among some of the finishers of the 5K run and many commented on the beautiful trails and particularly the hills. “This course is not dissimilar from the life of a person living with NF,” said one walker from Hazlet. “There are some steep climbs right from the start that can be overwhelming, then a period of ups and downs when things look like they might be tolerable, and then you suddenly face some unexpected twists and turns and difficult footing, but you press on.”
Throughout the morning participants were treated to fresh bagels, rolls, and other food and refreshments organized by planning committee members Nicole Armellino of Laurence Harbor and Kathleen Murray of Highlands and donated by Chobani Greet Yogurt of Norwich NY, Joyce’s Subs & Pizza of Lincroft, DeMarco’s Deli of Aberdeen, and Gem’s House of Bagels of Hazlet, as well as kids’ activities organized by Heather Elm of Hazlet including balloon art by Ed Huether of Farmingdale, NY, and face painting by Jessica Plath of Kidz Tatz in Middletown. Photography services were donated by Grato Images of Fair Haven and Viki Reed Photography of Tinton Falls.
After the finish of the 5K Run and the NF Walk, volunteer Thomas Dunn of Englishtown organized the younger participants into the kids’ races (with the sage advice to the older kids “Try not to run over the little ones”) which had dozens of unexpectedly fast youngsters finished to enthusiastic cheering from the crowd. Each child received a finisher’s ribbon.
During the brief awards ceremony, race organizers thanked the sponsors, the staff of the Foundation, the planning committee, the park staff, and especially all of the 35+ committed and hard-working volunteers that made the event possible.
Florence McCarthy of Holmdel announced and presented trophies to the top 5K finishers, and provided awards to the top fundraisers: top fundraising teams, mostly named after an NF “Hero” included Team Pasch which raised $6,240, Team Weedo ($5,295), Gabby’s Gang ($2,720), Emmie’s Award Winners ($2,716), and Team Patrick ($2,440); top individual fundraisers included Daria Weedo ($3,155), Glenn Pasch ($1,570), and Antonio Pires ($1,450), among many, many others.
The day concluded with delicious pizza and soda donated by the Red Oak Diner in Hazlet NJ. Participants were given more information about upcoming Foundation events in New Jersey including the annual Benefit Gala on November 1st at Cipriani Wall Street in New York City, the annual Casino Night planned for Friday April 5th, 2013 at the Knoll Country Club in Parsippany, the Jersey Shore Relay planned for Saturday April 20th, 2013 from Seaside Heights to Asbury Park, and of course already started asking about next year’s NF Walk and 5K in New Jersey.
NF is a progressive disorder that causes tumors to grow on nerves throughout the body. It affects millions of people worldwide and is more prevalent than cystic fibrosis, Duchenne muscular dystrophy, and Huntington's disease combined. The disorder can lead to deafness, blindness, bone abnormalities, learning disabilities, and cancer, but NF research is shedding new light on those and other complications as the Foundation searches for effective treatments for neurofibromatosis.
“As the participants in today’s event head off with some extra aches and pains from their efforts today,” said Claudia Costa of Ridgefield, “in their hearts they know that the struggles are not over for those living bravely day to day with the devastating challenges and unpredictability of NF.”
About Children’s Tumor Foundation
The Children's Tumor Foundation is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization that is dedicated to improving the health and well-being of the millions of people worldwide living with neurofibromatosis (NF), a term for three distinct disorders: NF1, NF2 and schwannomatosis. NF causes tumors to grow on nerves throughout the body and can lead to blindness, bone abnormalities, cancer, deafness, disfigurement, learning disabilities, and excruciating and disabling pain. NF affects one in every 3,000 people, more than cystic fibrosis, Duchenne muscular dystrophy, and Huntington’s disease combined. The Children’s Tumor Foundation funds critical research to find treatments for NF. In addition to benefitting those who live with neurofibromatosis, this research is shedding new light on several forms of cancer, brain tumors, bone abnormalities, and learning disabilities, ultimately benefiting the broader community.
For more information, please visit www.ctf.org .