The fight against childhood cancer continues on Sunday, Sept. 2, as the sixth annual Nicholas Pedone 5K Run and Walk takes place at Glen Cove High School. The annual fundraiser in memory of a local boy who lost his own fight against a rare cancer in 2013 aims to support cancer research and brings the community together for a race that gets bigger each year.
“The annual Nicholas Pedone 5K is by far the largest fundraiser we have,” said Josephine Pedone, Nicholas’ mother. “It has grown over the years and has raised over $250,000 collectively over the course of five years. ”
The first run was held in April 2013, with 7-year-old Nicholas participating just weeks before he died. The idea for that run came from Josephine’s nephew, who was a senior in high school at the time, as a way to raise money for the family’s medical costs. The first event raised more than $25,000, well above the goal of $10,000. The Pedones realized the type of impact they could make on other families and after Nicholas lost his fight against stage 3 neuroblastoma in May 2013, Josephine and her husband, Nick, established the Nicholas Pedone Foundation, with a mission to “deliver smiles to courageous kids fighting cancer and encourage them to always fight hard, smile big.”
The next year they decided to hold the annual event in September, which is Childhood Cancer Awareness month. An aspect that they incorporated into the second annual run is recognizing a child each year who is either fighting cancer or a survivor. This year’s honoree is Ric Wilson, who was diagnosed with osteosarcoma when he was 16 years old. Originally from Atlanta, GA, he relocated to New York to be treated at Memorial Sloan Kettering Hospital. After battling cancer for two years, he is now in remission.
“Ric was chosen with my connection through his mom as my colleague with Delta Air Lines. He is the epitome of fight hard, smile big, and we cannot wait to celebrate his life and walk alongside him,” said Josephine. “He is a true cancer warrior and we are so lucky to honor him at this year’s event.”
According to Josephine, only 4 percent of the annual budget from the National Cancer Institute is spent on childhood cancer research. Additionally, one out of eight children diagnosed with cancer will not survive, and 60 percent of children diagnosed will suffer long-lasting chronic conditions from treatment, such as infertility, heart failure and secondary cancers. The mission of the foundation is to help increase the odds of survival and raise awareness about the need to allocate more funding to research.
While the run is the biggest fundraiser, the Pedones feel strongly about offering emotional support to children. To spread warmth and smiles, the foundation started a care package program for children battling cancer; the smilePAKs consist of a backpack, a stuffed animal and a fleece blanket. The Hop4Kids program focuses on local hospital outreach programs that can benefit children during their stay. These have included a $250,000 grant to Northwell Cohen Children’s Medical Center for a reconstructed pediatric hematology-oncology playroom that opened earlier this year and a $25,000 donation to Winthrop Hospital for gaming consoles in the oncology rooms.
“We have made some enhancements this year trying to grow pro-runner participation and community families,” said Josephine.
Special additions this year include two musical guests, A Second Life and Don’t Believe In Ghosts, represented by T-Tonez productions, a North Shore High School alum. The bands will perform for about 20-25 minutes each, beginning at 9:30 a.m. Terry Bisogno, who serves as the voice of the Long Island Runners, is the official race announcer. Also new this year is cash prizes for the top finishers. A $1,000 purse will be awarded to the top three finishers in the male, female and wheelchair divisions that will be distributed among those runners. Plus, all pre-registrants will receive new Dri-Fit T-shirts.
Registration for the run begins at 7 a.m. at Glen Cove High School. The fun run, for ages 10 and under, consists of one lap around the track and starts at 8:15 a.m. The 5K run/walk begins at 9 a.m. Register at www.fighthardsmilebig.org until midnight on Friday, Aug. 31. Cost is $5 more for day-of registration.