April 4, 2014
I am running in the 2013 Harpoon 5-miler in memory of my father, Michael, who passed away last year after a two-year battle with ALS at the age of 60. I initially signed up to run the 5-miler because, I think like a lot of people with family members suffering from a terminal illness, I felt the overwhelming desire to do something. My father, who was a passionate and dedicated runner before his ALS diagnosis, was still alive when I began my fundraising campaign last year. He was so proud and supportive of what we were doing to raise money and awareness—it was important to him that the suffering of people with ALS be diminished as much as possible; even if further research and treatments wouldn’t benefit him. I realized through talking with him that running the 5-miler was so much more than arbitrarily “doing something” as I had initially thought—it was helping to provide hope for current sufferers and give them the reassurance that they are not alone in their fight.
Last year was my first year running in this race. Unfortunately, my father passed away on May 11, just a week before the event, so he was unable to know just how much support we garnered from our community. His memorial service was actually the day before the race, in our hometown in Western Massachusetts. The night before the race I was still at my mother’s home in Northampton, unsure of whether or not I would join my friends the next day. When I woke up the next morning, it was kind of like I was on auto-pilot—I got in my car and drove straight to the race at 6 o’clock in the morning, thinking of my dad the whole way. At the end, my father was in and out of lucidity, but the last conversation I had with him was about the race. I let him know that we had raised $3,000 and it was still counting. He was able to hear me and quietly respond that this was amazing, and that he was so proud of me. I only wish that he had been able to know that in the following week, we’d raise $6,000 more.
Last year my team consisted of myself, and my friends Meghan Morrissey, Erin Sullivan, and Kim Ferris. They will be running again this year, and we will be joined by our friends Jen Jones and Sarah Layne. The only connection these ladies have to this disease is my family; which makes their support and dedication even more impressive. I think the success of our fundraising was two-fold: The joint effort of our team to reach out to friends and family for their support was crucial. However, I think a big part of our success had to do with who my father was as a person. He was the kindest, gentlest and sweetest man, and notoriously known for these traits. He was also astonishingly brave, and greeted this disease with more grace and dignity than I thought a human being could be capable of. I think the people in his life wanted to honor his fight, and his memory.
This year, the race takes place exactly one year from the day of my father’s memorial service. I hope to honor him by raising $10,000 for this cause. In addition to raising funds directly through our website, our team will be holding a fundraising event on May 10th at The Point. The following day, the year anniversary of my father’s death, also happens to be my mother’s birthday. The greatest gift I can think of to give to her is surpassing our fundraising goal in memory of my incredible dad.
This disease affects more people than I will ever be able to comprehend. There are stories of families who have suffered through this ordeal with less support and resources than my family had. There are stories of parents with brand-new babies and little kids; stories of ALS patients whose ability to speak is their first loss. The most admirable thing about my dad was that while he hated this awful disease he understood that in the grand scheme of things, he was pretty blessed. I hope to take that attitude forward with me. The dedication of organizations like Harpoon and the Angel Fund, the unwavering support of family and friends, and the 23 years I had with such an incredible father, make feeling blessed pretty easy to do.