UMass ALS Cellucci Fund Boston Marathon Team Aiming for 10th Anniversary Goal of $ 50,000
The 125th Boston Marathon Run on October 11 will have special meaning for five runners who raise funds for the ALS Cellucci fund at UMass Medical School.
“This is a monumental year as it is the 10th anniversary of the UMass ALS Cellucci Fund team’s participation in the Boston Marathon,” said Julie Bowditch, community fundraising manager at the Advancement Office. of the UMMS. “Plus, we’re running the Boston Marathon the only time it’s held live in October. “
The 2020 Boston In-Person Marathon has been canceled, upgrading to a virtual marathon in which runners ran the distance in their own neighborhoods. This year, with the introduction of COVID-19 vaccines, the Boston Athletic Association moved the event to October from its traditional April date and limited the scope to 20,000 attendees.
Since 2011, more than 50 people have been part of the UMass ALS Cellucci Fund marathon team through the John Hancock Marathon Non-Profit program, which provides bibs to some non-profit organizations. These runners have raised more than $ 500,000, according to the Advancement Office.
The marathon team’s contributions are part of more than $ 5.2 million that was raised to help Robert H. Brown Jr., DPhil, MD, the Leo P. and Theresa M. LaChance Chair in Medical Research and professor of neurology, and his colleagues are making progress against amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), or Lou Gehrig’s disease. Dr Brown also treated the late Massachusetts Governor and Ambassador to Canada, A. Paul Cellucci, founder and namesake of the fund, after being diagnosed with ALS.
“We typically receive five bibs as part of the John Hancock nonprofit program, and we are very grateful and excited to be a part of it again,” said Bowditch. “It’s a very competitive program, with many charities on the waiting list for years for this opportunity. So we don’t take it for granted.
This year’s team is aiming to raise $ 50,000 and by the end of July it was getting halfway there. Sponsorship opportunities are available to help defray some of the burden of fundraising from individual runners, Bowditch said. Each runner pledges to raise at least $ 7,500. Sponsorship information is available at: https://www.umassmed.edu/umass-als-cellucci-fund/boston-marathon-team/sponsor/.
The squad includes Todd Brisky (who also raced for the squad in 2018), Carol Castiglia, Heather Forchilli, Scott Ober and Vinay Sampson (who was accepted to the squad in 2020 but was denied the opportunity to participate due to COVID).
Many team members over the years have had a family member or friend affected by ALS.
Vinay Sampson, 55, of Monroe, Connecticut, lost his brother, Vidyasagar, to ALS in 2015, at the age of 59.
“I would say he was my hero, so that’s what motivated me,” Sampson said. Growing up in India, in a family of nine, Sampson said he and his siblings admired Vidyasagar, who had a passion for sports and music. “He encouraged us to be active, to pursue their dreams, and he did everything to make our paths easier than his,” Sampson recalls.
Sampson played and coached basketball throughout his youth and went on to work with the YMCA.
He said: “The reason I started running about six years ago was to be healthy and to be a role model for my daughters,” one who is in high school and one who recently graduated graduated from UMass Amherst and works in public health. “I want my daughters to know that if they focus on something, they can accomplish anything.”
This will be Sampson’s seventh marathon, having run other major marathons such as New York, San Francisco, Seattle, Los Angeles, Hartford and Dublin, but it will be his first Boston.
“Running in Boston means a lot to me personally,” Sampson said. On April 15, 2013, the Sampson family was in Boston. They were having lunch at the port and around them were several athletes who finished the race. They then saw the terrible events of that day unfold. “It was a dark day, but the courage and strength of this city inspires me. Boston has been in my heart ever since.
Traveling from Hopkinton to Copley Square with his family and friends to cheer him on along the way will be something Sampson will cherish his entire life.
“I never thought I would run. But today I am so blessed and lucky to be part of the ALS Cellucci Fund team. I am running for a great cause. I hope and pray that we will see a breakthrough for ALS in our lifetime, ”he said.
Heather Forchilli, 30, from Worcester, had an epiphany eight years ago, “and realized I wasn’t living the life I imagined myself to be,” she said.
She embarked on a fitness journey, losing 120 pounds by exercising, quitting smoking, drinking water, and eating healthier. And she discovered her inner athlete by joining local women’s rugby, soccer, kickball and softball teams.
Forchilli shared his journey on social media, hoping to motivate others. That effort extended to her embrace of running, which she embraced four years ago when she started training with the rugby team.
When she turned 30 in April, she hosted a 30-mile run with friends and family, “Thought I could, so I did it,” donating $ 250 from the event to the group. Girls on The Run Worcester nonprofit.
Raising money for a cause by running came naturally for Forchilli. When she had the opportunity to run her first official marathon with the ALS Cellucci Fund, she jumped at the chance. The cause was even more important to her because her stepfather’s mother, Ellen, died of ALS in 2012.
Even after Ellen was diagnosed with ALS and couldn’t continue to travel, hike in the mountains and do the things she loved, she remained positive, Forchilli said.
“She said she felt so blessed to be able to do all of these things while she could,” Forchilli said. “And for her to have such a positive attitude when a diagnosis like this comes in, it blew me away. It was part of my epiphany that the key to happiness, to a successful life, is a positive attitude. “
Keeping the spirit of fun, Forchilli added a costume challenge to her ALS Cellucci Fund, in which the week’s biggest donor can choose which costume she will wear for her long training weekend. So far, she’s the Queen of Hearts, Black Widow and the Red Hot Chili Peppers.
Bowditch, who ran with the team in 2019 in memory of his uncle, who died of ALS in 2018, said there would be group activities ahead of the marathon.
Two years ago, members of the UMass ALS Cellucci Fund team were invited to the UMass Medical School campus for a lunch with Dr Brown and Fen-Biao Gao, PhD, the Governor Paul Cellucci’s Chair in Neuroscience Research and professor of neurology. Jan Cellucci, the widow of Governor Cellucci, was also present.
“You know, it’s funny because I brought the team here thinking they would be inspired by the researchers,” Bowditch said of that meeting. Dr. Gao said the reverse had also happened. He was even more motivated in his research after seeing what runners were willing to do to help.