Honoring a life, fighting a disease

Published 1:41 pm Thursday, May 15, 2014





Washington Daily News


There have been plenty of 5-kilometer runs this year, including the Dream Factory Dirty Dash in Greenville and the Glow Race in Washington a few weeks back, but none quite like this.

Emily Bennett, a senior at Washington High School, decided she wanted to make a difference in the lives of those affected by a crippling disease, Parkinson’s, while also honoring the life of her grandmother Diane Gerard. Gerard, of Washington, was also the mother of Amy Thomas, owner of Fitness Unlimited.

“She impacted so many people and was a positive influence on every person she met,” Bennett said. “So I wanted to do something to honor her and her life because she meant so much to a lot of people.”

Gerard passed away on April 3 due to complications from Parkinson’s and amyotrpohic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, otherwise known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. Bennett says over the last 20 years her loving grandmother’s condition slowly deteriorated, the disease affecting her mobility and eventually her ability to communicate.

Bennett decided to organize the race as a part of her senior project.

“Originally, I was doing it to raise money for Parkinson’s disease because my grandmother had that, but she like passed away April 3,” Bennett said, “It just kind of all tied together and I decided to do the race in honor of her.”

The race is scheduled for Saturday at 8 a.m. While she’s hoping for 200, Bennett is expecting well over 100 runners.

Participants will begin at the North Carolina Estuarium, located on East Water Street, and make their way down Main Street, go over the Washington Park bridge, loop around and make their way back downtown. Traffic will be rerouted around the runners, so drivers planning to drive Saturday morning should plan alternate routes.

Runners can preregister at Fitness Unlimited today, or arrive at the Estuarium tomorrow between 7-7:30 a.m. to sign up. A $10 registration fee is required to participate. All proceeds from the event will be donated to the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research.

As for Bennett, she will be attending North Carolina State University this fall, enrolling in the First Year College program as an undeclared major.