Kona Day 2011 has just officially ended (its 12:04 a.m. in Kona and 6:04 a.m. here on the east coast).  Watching the live broadcast for 10 hours yesterday and getting up this morning the watch the 15 and 16 hour finishers coupled with the getting the logistics set for the 2012 Greater Hartford 1/4 Marathon (it looks like the race will be on March 31, 2012) and spending a lot of time on the trainer watching old Kona broadcasts got me thinking about a question I’ve been asked many time — “Why the Blazeman Foundation?”

Every year since 2008, the proceeds from the Greater Hartford 1/4 Marathon have gone to the Blazeman Foundation.  Over the past four years we’ve been able to raise $14,668.40.  Not a bad little number and I’d like to take the total over $20,000 in 2012.  Over the course of the last four years, I’ve been asked several times why I decided that the Blazeman Foundation should be the beneficiary of the 1/4 Marathon.  For me the answer is simple — watch the Kona broadcasts in 2005 and 2006.   For those of you who haven’t watched NBC’s coverage, in 2005 John Blais finished Kona while battling ALS (You can watch his 2005 story here).  In 2006, Jon came back to Kona in a wheelchair.  That year Brian Breen finished Kona racing for John to help raise awareness for ALS (You can watch the 2006 coverage here).  I can’t watch either year without crying. 

“Live more than your neighbors. Unleash yourself upon the world and go places. Go now, giggle, know, laugh, and bark at the moon like the wild dog you are. Understand that this is not a dress rehearsal, this is it, your life. Face your fears and live your dreams. Take it all in. Yes every chance you get, come close. And by all means, whatever you do, get it on film!” – Jon Blais, The Blazeman

ALS (Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis)* commonly referred to as Lou Gehrig’s Disease, is a progressive degenerative disease that attacks the motor neurons, or nerve cells, in the brain and spinal cord. Motor neurons control the movement of voluntary muscles. Death of the motor neurons makes it impossible for the brain to control muscles or signal them to move. As the muscles atrophy, it results in weakness and loss of coordination.  ALS is unpreventable, untreatable and incurable. ALS attacks otherwise healthy adults randomly and spontaneously. Once diagnosed, people with ALS have an average life expectancy of 2 – 5 years. After watching Jon’s gutsy performances in both 2005 and 2006, I pretty much thought here’s a disease that is indiscriminate in who it effects and is devastating no matter the victim.  Despite the indiscriminate and devastating nature of the disease there is (was) limited on-going research and public awareness other than the fact that it was “Lou Gehrig’s Disease.”

That’s where the Blazeman Foundation comes in.  Run by Jon’s mom and dad (B Mom and B Dad — friend them on Face Book, they’re awesome), the Blazeman Foundation has a dual mission: (1) raising awareness about ALS; and (2) raising funds to be directed into cutting-edge scientific research to find treatments and an eventual cure for ALS.  B Mom and B Dad tirelessly travel the country raising awareness and the funds raised by Blazeman Warriors have led to significant research breakthroughs in just the last few months.  Aside from the good work it does, the Blazeman Foundation is just a fantastic organization to work with.  Jon sister Jen Murphy and her family are annual volunteers at the 1/4 Marathon and there’s not a dry eye in house when Jen speaks about Jon at the awards ceremony. 

I know there are lots of charitable organizations out there, but for me and the 1/4 Marathon, the Blazeman Foundation is a perfect fit. 

*This definition is from the Blazeman Foundations webpage and can be found here.  

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Kelly Burns Gallagher

mccarter english employment litigator / oiselle team runner / coeur sports triathlete / sonic endurance coach & race director / witsup.com writer / dartmouth '02 / emorylaw '05

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