Rob Faugno has learned a lot from his sister, Bartolina, whom he calls his inspiration. On April 11, her 18th birthday, he’ll show his gratitude with an inspiring feat of his own.
The Syracuse University student will spend that Friday running from his Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity house to the one at Cornell University in Ithaca. The distance between those two New York towns is 54 miles, but the number on Rob’s mind is $50,000.
That’s how much money he hopes to raise for Make-A-Wish, an organization he discovered through Bartolina. She was born with epilepsy and a tumor on her brainstem, and as a child, she became a Wish Kid. She also underwent numerous surgeries and medication trials, teaching her older brother that “heart and determination can carry you through anything.”
Those words appear on Rob’s Make-A-Wish fundraiser page, which as of Friday, March 21, indicates that he’s raised roughly $7,500, or 15 percent of his target. He’s got a ways to go, but the Faugnos are no quitters. Bartolina certainly hasn’t buckled in the face of adversity.
“Doctors said she would never go off to college, and she’s doing it,” Rob told The Post-Standard.
Indeed, Bartolina plans to attend Boston College in the fall, and it’s in tribute to her “courage and strength” that Rob prepares to run what amounts to his first ultamarathon.
Last year, he and his Pi Kappa Alpha brothers celebrated Bartolina’s 17th birthday by hosting a bake sale. With the help of the Faugno siblings’ uncle Bobby Valastro, a star of the TLC reality show Cake Boss, they made $7,000, and Rob hopes that the famous baker will be on hand to watch his run.
Either way, Rob will have the support of his coach, Fred Joslyn, training programs manager at Fleet Feet Sports. The shop is providing Faugno with running gear and other things he’ll need on his 54-mile trek from Syracuse to Ithaca.
“People ask if I’m a runner, and I say, ‘I am now,’” Faugno said.
“Our races are to our sport what Wimbledon and the Australian, U.S., and French Opens are to tennis, and what the Masters, U.S., and British Opens and PGA Championship are to golf. Each race has the history, the tradition, the honor roll of legendary champions, and a special place in the eyes of all to make them stand apart from the other events.” Mary Wittenberg