The Join the Voices! 5-mile run, 1.7-mile walk, and kids' races are an annual display of the way that the running community unites people of diverse backgrounds toward a common goal. Of the 5,000+ runners and walkers who participated today, the most spirited were those wearing matching team shirts and waving banners in support of Voices Against Brain Cancer (VABC) and of their friends and family members who have been affected by brain tumors.
Mitchell Kent spoke at the start and told the story of how, just three months after achieving his dream of running the ING New York City Marathon, he had a seizure brought on by a brain tumor. All of that was sandwiched between his wedding in June 2011 and the birth of his daughter in February 2012. Following his surgery and treatment, the longtime runner was back at it, finishing the New York Giants Run of Champions 5K with his wife and baby watching. Today, his team, Mitchell's Minyan, walked and ran wearing yellow headbands in support. (A minyan is a group of 10 adults organized for prayer in Judaism.)
"The greatest thing is the amount of money raised by the organization. That's what this is all about," Kent said. "Getting out there to run for a cause--that's why we all do this."
Also addressing the crowd was Dr. Howard Riina, a professor and the vice chairman of the department of neurosurgery at NYU–Langone Medical Center and a member of VABC's advisory board. Dr. Riina operated on Gary Lichtenstein 10 years ago, before Lichtenstein's father, Mario, started VABC in honor of his son's fight against brain cancer.
Dr. Riina said, "I remember when Mario sat in my office 10 years ago and said, 'I want to do something.' Between the run and the walk, there are more than 5,000 people here today. It's incredible and it's only going to get bigger."
Before the race, Dr. Riina talked with Lauren DiMarco of New Jersey, who organized the Miracle Mike team in honor of her lifelong friend Mike Carbone. Their group of 120 runners and walkers was the largest team of the day. They used today's race to raise more than $30,000 for VABC.
"Mike is always up for a challenge," said DiMarco after her 38:29 finish in the 5-mile run. "If it were someone else, Mike would be here running for them."
Scott Spoerl is a six-year brain tumor survivor and was walking with his team, the Spoerl Brain-Stormers, in support of his own cause. He spoke at the event in 2006 and 2007 when it was just a walk in downtown Manhattan. For him and his wife, Julie, VABC and the annual Join the Voices! event have been the ultimate community support group.
"When I call them at 8:30 on a Monday night and need doctor contacts, by 10:30 I've made three contacts and we're seeing them within the next day or two," she said.
"The money raised funds a lot of the doctors that I actually go see," Scott added. "It's a blessing to represent them with my team."