Run with the Squirrels!
The Squirrel Run (a.k.a. The Jimmy Kennedy Memorial Run for ALS) brings back its happy blend of family fun and ALS support for another successful year, June 11th Quincy, MA. Sign up now, mark your calendars; this is a heck of an event with tons of energy.
Posted Monday, 16 May, 2005
The event has something for all runners, and is a great opportunity for those who want to support a good cause. If you’re a competitive racer you’ll love the flat, fast course designed by racers. If you’re a runner with kids they’ll be thanking you, (and begging you to come back), once they see the carnival of treats waiting for them at Pageant Field in Quincy. If you even have a pulse you’ll be moved by the passion that these guys bring to their cause.
Bring the Family!
How many times have you had to drag the kids to a race? Not this one. They’ll beg you to come back next year once they see what the organizers have in store for them.
“When we started this race we knew we could put on a competitive running event, but we never imagined that it would turn into such a huge family event,”says Richard “Ratt” Kennedy about the memorial race that bears his brother’s name.
“Mom, Dad, can we go to the Squirrel Run again?”
As one runner put it; “The Squirrel Run has become a family tradition for us. There is something for everyone. Our kids actually start nagging us when the event is coming up. They have so much fun; they don’t want to miss it!”
If you’re a runner with a family, this is a great way to get a fast, flat 5-miler in and keep the family happy too. Bring the kids along. The event will keep them entertained and busy while you’re running.
In the 8 years since they started the event it has grown into so much more than a competitive 5 miler near the beach in Quincy. The biggest change has been the large number of families who come along. The event takes over Pageant Field in Quincy for the day. They set up all kinds of family diversions and fun events on the grassy fields. There is a Ferris wheel, moonwalk, train rides and lots of food. In addition to the 5 Mile Run, there’s also a 2.5 Mile Fitness Walk, plus a kids “run” in the infield grass for the little ones. Piles of pizza and food will keep them filled-up and happy.
The Squirrel Run in many cases has become an every-year family reunion tradition. Extended families of up to 30 people come every year. They come from as far away as Florida, North Carolina and New York to Quincy to run with the squirrels.
Flat, fast and by the sea
Racers will love this course. The organizers are competitive runners and racers and the course reflects the spirit of local racing. It is a classic ocean-side 5 miler.
The USATF New England certified course starts and ends at Pageant Field near Veterans’ Stadium in Quincy. The race heads out along the shore for a couple miles before looping back through old Quincy neighborhoods to the finish back at the field. Runners are greeted by a raucous, cheering crowd at the finish. Close your eyes and you might think you’re breaking the tape at the Olympics!
This is a small race, around 800 runners last year, so you might even have a chance to go home with some prizes. Michael Gorman took it last year with a 5:11 pace for the men. Susannah Landreth was the first female finisher, racing 6:05’s. The second place male, Bill Ramsay, was in the 50-59 age groups and ran a 5:41 pace! The age groups give you an even better chance, (unless, of course, your 50-59 and Bill is running again).
For those of you who have trouble committing, there is race-day registration and since it’s a charity race, it’s tax-deductible. There are great T-shirts with the Squirrel logo on them. Even if you have enough shirts, your kids, (or spouse), will love these.
There is a big party before, during and afterwards, with tons of free food contributed by high profile sponsors. One cool aspect is that each year they name the awards after ALS victims. It can be quite moving when friends and family at the awards ceremony hear the name of a loved one memorialized.
I like a race with walk-in registration on race day. Sometimes in our busy lives with family, work and training we wait a bit too long …yes, I do things at the last minute and this includes waking up on a Saturday and deciding to run a race that day! For the Squirrel Run, registration starts at 8:00 a.m. The 2.5 Mile Fitness Walk starts at 9:00 a.m. , 5 Mile Run starts at 10:00 a.m.
Making a difference for ALS
The core of the race is fund raising for a great cause--finding a cure for ALS.
Jimmy (The Squirrel) Kennedy's battle with ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis), better known as Lou Gehrig's Disease, ended on April 6, 1997 when he was 31 years old. ALS is a particularly horrible disease because it leaves the mind intact while slowly wasting away the body.
Ratt Kennedy cites thank you letters that he receives each year from families. They are glad this event has been established to give them a way to remember someone they’ve seen succumb to ALS. The race directors have found that ALS is a disease that impacts entire families, not just the individuals who have it. The race has become an event for families to wrap their personal memorials around. It resonates with the families, and the families in turn add an energy and passion to the event that you won’t find in your standard weekend 5-miler.
"Our goal is to raise money for ALS research," says Ratt, Jimmy's brother. "We want to continue to build awareness for this devastating disease that strikes thousands of individuals every year." Kennedy and Marty Levenson, a childhood friend and running partner, have organized the race together since 1998.
Talking to race directors Ratt and Marty, you are immediately struck by their passion. Ratt is on fire, glowing with passion, as he explains to you how much Jimmy’s lost fight with ALS changed his world. You can feel deeply the loss, but you can also sense how these guys took this challenging adversity and turned it around. They took their anger and grief, combined it with their love of running and poured their hearts and souls into this event. The result is something bigger than they imagined.
"Every single penny we receive from the event goes directly to research to cure this awful disease. We have no overhead.”
Jimmy “The Squirrel”, Richard “The Ratt” Kennedy and Marty Levenson were competitive local runners and it was a natural thing for Ratt to team up with Marty and put together a memorial race to raise money for ALS after losing Jimmy to the disease.
“Jimmy loved to run and it was awful for him to loose that. The difficult thing about this disease is watching someone you love slowly fade away. It’s exhausting physically and mentally.” Ratt says, “We started the race to memorialize Jimmy and to raise funds for ALS, but it now represents a memorial for all the sufferers and a celebration for the survivors and their dedicated families.”
Making an impact; making progress against a killer
The most encouraging thing about it is that they are making a difference. The Squirrel Run team is getting some high impact things done. They have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars over the years. Ratt is now President of the Angel Fund, an organization that is dedicated to supporting ALS investigations at the Cecil B. Day Laboratory for Neuromuscular Research at Massachusetts General Hospital, internationally recognized for its ground-breaking work in the fight against this devastating illness.
Through the Squirrel Run and other Angel Fund activities they pay the salaries of 5 residents at Mass General Hospital. They are also the cornerstone funding of a ground-breaking new 9,000 square foot genetics lab to study the genetic foundations of the disease.
So, is it helping? You bet! As Ratt says, “This is an incredible time to be involved in ALS research. With the convergence of high-powered computer modeling and clinical studies, trials that used to take weeks now can be done in days.”
How often can you quantify the impact that a charity has? There are plenty of runs for causes, but few are as high impact as this one has become.
Strong sponsorships make for a great event
An important factor in the quality of any race is the quality of the sponsorships. Anyone who has been involved in putting on a race knows how hard it is to line-up sponsors and contributors. Because of the high visibility and high impact of the Squirrel Run, they have been able to enlist plenty of help. Sponsors include big hitters Dominoes Pizza and Stop & Shop for food, New Balance for prizes and even El Paso Gas out of Texas. The net result is a better supported event for you, the runner and your families.
Great time for runners, walkers, families and high-impact support for a great cause
Take a trip with the family in June over to Quincy to see for yourself the passion and energy of this event. It’s pumped up. It’s a great little race with a large heart that your whole family will love. It’s making a difference. Go ahead and get squirrelly with the rest of the pack and have some fun!