VERONA, NJ — On Saturday, June 9, more than 4,000 supporters joined together in a 1-mile walk around Verona Park to celebrate the courage and resilience of children in the area being treated for cancer and blood disorders. Earlier in the day, the debut of a new flatter, faster 5K certified race course that straddled Verona and West Orange proved popular with more than 800 registered runners.
The Valerie Fund Walk & JAG Physical Therapy 5K Run is a communitywide event, now in its 13th year.
“The walk brings out the very best in humanity and our community to help children with cancer and blood disorders work through their challenges and not just survive, but thrive,” Valerie Fund Chairman Dominic DiBari said.
The hashtag “#Whodoyouwalkfor?” recognizes that everyone has been touched in some way by the devastating effects of a life-threatening illness and no one is alone in their battle.
Since breaking the million-dollar mark in 2012 more than $7,250,000 — including $1,000,000 and counting at this year’s event — has been raised to support the children and families of The Valerie Fund — children like Grace, age 9, who was diagnosed with a germ cell brain tumor in early May. Grace and her family raised close to $30,000 for her walk team, GG’s Angels, and can proudly claim the No. 2 spot of the top-10 fundraising teams. Even though the family is in the early stages of this difficult journey, Aubrey, Grace’s mother, says her daughter has already experienced the benefits of psychosocial services provided at The Valerie Fund. She said Grace’s session with the integrative medicine specialist included meditation, massage and aromatherapy and “has helped us all reduce stress and given us methods to facilitate peace when we are worried.”
The grass roots efforts of captains and their teams, 187 in all, raised close to 60 percent of the total and sponsors continue to be the foundation of the event’s success. Corporate commitments were made by JAG Physical Therapy, the event’s exclusive run sponsor, and many others.
The Valerie Fund, based in Maplewood, is now celebrating more than 40 years of caring for children with life-threatening diseases. After their 9-year-old daughter, Valerie, succumbed to cancer, Sue and Ed Goldstein were determined that no family should have to travel great distances to receive state-of-the-art medical care. Along with a group of close friends, they began fundraising efforts from their living room — tireless work that would lead to the 1977 opening of New Jersey’s first pediatric oncology facility at Summit’s Overlook Hospital.