By Danielle Lipiec // Photos by James Hardy
Community, goodwill, and a passion for the greater good – all three are aspects of charity that were present at the 12th annual Run for Rose in Ocean Bay Park on Sunday, Aug. 12. The heat of the day didn’t stop all 324 registered runners from showing up to run for a cause the Fire Island community has continuously supported over the years. Volunteers, friends, and participants alike gathered to cheer each other on in the pursuit to raise money for brain cancer patients.
Rose DiGangi was a mother, a cook, an avid gardener and a lover of Fire Island. After a courageous battle against brain cancer, she passed away in October of 2007. Subsequently, the first Run for Rose was formed in 2007 by Rose’s children, preceding the Rose DiGangi Foundation (RDF), which was established in 2013. In the foundation’s first five years, funds were donated to the American Brain Tumor Association. Since last year alone, RDF has provided $35,000 to brain cancer patients.
“My siblings and I grew up visiting Fire Island, whether it was for relaxation or for work,” said Anthony DiGangi, Rose’s son and president of the foundation. “We have had a lifetime of friendships since the early ‘90s on the island. Many contribute to the cause as well as volunteer every year. Everyone helps us in some way.”
This was evident as volunteers from the Ocean Bay Park Fire Department, Ocean Beach Youth Group, Ocean Beach EMS and various other outlets lined the course in support of the race. Additionally, sponsors like Flynn’s and Fire Island Ferries backed the event not only with monetary donations, but also donations of service to help keep the event running smoothly before and after the three miles. With the help of these groups and individuals, RDF has been able to raise enough to alleviate some of the financial burden brain cancer patients face as they fight to recover. Before this year’s race even began, $30,000 had been raised, as well as an additional $13,000 in racer registration fees.
“The community has been amazing and without them this event is not possible,” said DiGangi. “Everyone looks forward to and helps us put on the event. It truly has become a weekend that everyone looks forward to.”
Over its 12 years, the race has attracted walkers, amateur runners, and cross country prodigies alike. While many race participants are local, there are those who travel from other parts of Long Island, and around country, before hopping on a ferry to compete for the cause. Jennifer Vigliotti of Smithtown participated in her first Run for Rose, and was not disappointed by how it went. “This was a spontaneous thing I did, I wasn’t aware it was going on until last night. I’m so glad I came across it,” she said. “The residents were so supportive of the runners; every turn there was someone there, cheering us on. I was so impressed by the event and all involved, I’m very much looking forward to coming back next year and many more after.”
Front runners of the race were Andrew Sidamon- Eristoff and Lauren Chapey, each finishing as the top runner in their gender class. With a clock time of 16 minutes and 31 seconds, Sidamon-Eristoff of Point O’ Woods came in first overall. Coming in second place in last year’s Run for Rose, he expressed his determination to come out on top this year. “I’ve been running since I was in middle school, and I run cross country for my high school. Last year I came in second, so I was pretty motivated to get first this year,” he said.
Lauren Chapey, with a clock time of 19 minutes and 29 seconds, also from Point O’ Woods and a runner for Yale, was the first female to finish in last year’s Run for Rose as well. Chapey expressed a similar determination, and coming in 9th overall and first in the female class in this year’s race, did not fall short. “It’s a really great cause, and I’m really happy to support it every year,” she said.
The Rose DiGangi Foundation operates off a widespread effort to keep the spirit of Rose alive in every person involved in the cause. “Her illness was secondary to everything else. She raised us to always put others first and organizing the run each year is just one way for us to continue her legacy,” said DiGangi. Recognized as a non-profit organization with the State of New York, the RDF continues its selfless work in honor of Rose, and in hopes of giving comfort to those suffering from brain cancer. Donations are accepted at rosedigangi.org.
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