Wanted: 12 Boston Marathon runners to support ALS research

John Hancock awards 12 bibs to runners who raise at least $5,000 for UMass ALS Champion Fund

By Lisa M. Larson

UMass Medical School Communications

November 17, 2011

Twelve altruistic athletes will truly be going the distance for the UMass ALS Champion Fund this spring, running the 26.2 grueling miles of hilly Boston Marathon terrain to raise precious research dollars for UMass Medical School.

John Hancock, principal sponsor of the Boston Marathon, recently accepted the UMass ALS Champion Fund into its nonprofit bib program, allowing UMMS to bestow a dozen official race numbers to marathoners who commit to raising at least $5,000 each for the fund. Organizers say they hope participants will garner more support, possibly $10,000 or more per runner.

The UMass ALS Champion Fund, launched with the assistance of former Massachusetts Gov. Paul Cellucci, who is living with the disease, provides funding for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) research at UMMS. Robert H. Brown Jr., DPhil, MD, chair and professor of neurology, leads the school’s cutting-edge research program, geared toward discovering better treatments and eventually a cure for ALS. Cellucci is being treated by Dr. Brown at UMass Memorial Medical Center, the clinical partner of UMMS.

“I am honored that John Hancock has picked the UMass ALS Champion Fund to participate in the Boston Marathon nonprofit program,” Cellucci said. “It means so much to me and my family to see the groundswell of support for Dr. Brown’s research at UMass Medical School. Our champions are the people who are willing to step up and support Dr. Brown and his lab find a cure.”

Brown is widely recognized as a pioneer in neurodegenerative disease research. For 30 years, he has dedicated himself to understanding the complexities of ALS, a fatal degenerative disorder that causes progressive muscle weakness, leading to paralysis and eventually death, within five years of diagnosis. There is no treatment that does anything but even slightly slow the progression. Brown has been a leading visionary for ALS treatment and part of nearly every fundamental ALS breakthrough to date, including the identification of mutations in a gene that is responsible for 20 to 25 percent of the familial form of the disease.

Now UMMS is searching for a dozen runners who are passionate about raising money for the UMass ALS Champion Fund.

“We’re looking for enthusiastic runners who will proudly bear the name of the UMass ALS Champion Fund as they take on the challenge of the historic Boston Marathon, knowing they represent hope for people living with this debilitating disease,” said Chancellor Michael F. Collins. “The money they raise—$5,000, $10,000 or more—will go a long way in supporting the novel work being done by Dr. Robert Brown’s lab to unlock the mystery behind ALS.”

John Hancock’s Boston Marathon Non-Profit Program awards hundreds of guaranteed entries to select nonprofits every year. In 2011, more than $5.3 million was raised through the program, up from $4.3 million in 2010.

Interested runners should visit http://umassmed.edu/UMassALS_BostonMarathon.aspx for an application. Any questions, contact Katie Friend, Community Outreach Coordinator in the UMass Medicine Development Office at Katie.Friend@umassmed.edu. The deadline to apply is Monday, Dec. 5.


Related stories on UMassMedNow:

Donation gives greater visibility to UMass/ALS Champion Fund
Cellucci takes ALS fight to center field at Fenway
A pitch to raise millions for ALS research
This medical student is also an elite runner