Five UMass ALS Cellucci Fund supporters to run Boston Marathon

Each member of the team is fundraising in honor of a loved one

By Megan Bard

UMass Medical School Communications

March 09, 2018
  The starting line of the Boston Marathon.

This is the seventh year that runners supporting the UMass ALS Cellucci Fund have taken part in the John Hancock nonprofit marathon program. They've raised nearly $375,000.

Five people will represent the UMass ALS Cellucci Fund in the 2018 Boston Marathon to raise awareness of and funds for breakthrough amyotrophic lateral sclerosis research (ALS) underway at UMass Medical School. All of the runners have been personally touched by ALS.

For Matthew Gibney of Somerville, it’s a fitting way to celebrate the life of his father, Robert Gibney, and his uncle, Alan Gibney, both of whom died from complications caused by ALS. The first anniversary of his father’s death is April 15, one day before this year’s marathon; his uncle died four years ago this summer.

“Dad always helped me out with whatever I was interested in at the time,” Gibney said. “He took me to all my practices, made sure I was at my games, played with me in the backyard. What happened to him—that ALS robbed him of his mobility before he died while I still had mine—is why I think running a marathon is a tribute to him. Running and raising money for the Cellucci Fund to support research into a disease that took their lives is just one thing that I can do.”

Former Massachusetts Gov. A. Paul Cellucci dedicated the final years of his life to working toward a cure for ALS, founding the UMass ALS Cellucci Fund in 2011 to support ALS research at UMMS. It is home to the lab of Robert H. Brown Jr., DPhil, MD, the Leo P. and Theresa M. LaChance Chair in Medical Research, chair and professor of neurology, one of the world’s leading ALS researchers and Gov. Cellucci’s physician. The governor died from the disease in 2013.

This is the seventh year that runners supporting the UMass ALS Cellucci Fund have taken part in the John Hancock nonprofit marathon program. The partnership provides official race numbers to those who commit to raising a minimum of $7,500 to support ALS research at UMMS. The Cellucci Fund marathon teams have raised nearly $375,000.

Gibney is joined by four other people who will represent the fund in the 122nd Boston Marathon on April 16.

Sean McQuillan of Cambridge will run in memory of his aunt, Susan Noll, who died in 2015 at age 55 from ALS.

“I will forever be impressed with her courage, cheerfulness, and good humor—and these are of the many reasons why I will run for her in April,” he said. McQuillan applied to be part of the Cellucci Fund marathon team after reading of the tangible results coming from UMMS labs, whose researchers benefited from Ice Bucket Challenge financial support through the ALS Association.

Todd Brisky of Weston is running for his fellow Duke University Blue Devil, Peter Warlick, whom he met in business school more than 20 years ago. The friends reunited when Warlick shared the news of his diagnosis and encouraged people to get involved. Warlick’s candor about his condition and desire to support research toward a cure, even if it won’t be found in time for his benefit, is what inspired Brisky to run.

“His approach is that he’s going to do what he can to get it to the point where the science can really start to make a difference and extend a life,” Brisky said.

Claire Pelletier of Manchester, N.H., is running her first marathon for her role model, her father, who was diagnosed two years ago with primary lateral sclerosis (PLS), a nonfatal neurodegenerative disease similar to ALS. Pelletier’s desire to run for the UMass ALS Cellucci Fund stems from her belief in the research underway at UMMS.

Since its establishment, the UMass ALS Cellucci Fund has generated nearly $5 million. To support the UMass ALS Cellucci Fund team in the Boston Marathon and learn more about its members, which also includes Kathleen McDonough of Needham, visit their fundraising website.

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Craig Adams to run Boston Marathon in memory of father-in-law Paul Cellucci
Newsmakers: UMass ALS Cellucci Fund duo complete 2016 Boston Marathon