Hundreds turn out for annual Run for Our Sons

Staff photo by Wm. Shawn Weigel Runners are cheered as they cross the finish line at the fourth annual Run for our Sons at Patton Middle School on Saturday morning. The annual event has raised thousands of dollars for the nonprofit Parent Project Muscular Dystrophy organization.

For Jeff Sasin, the choice to get up early on a Saturday morning in 50 degree weather and run 5 kilometers was easy.

He was helping support a friend and former co-worker and paying homage to an event that got him started in running.

“I used to work with (event organizer Paul Johnson) ... and he’s a great guy,” Sasin said. “And I love to support his cause and try to come out every year.”

Since coming to the first Run for our Sons in 2009, Sasin has gone on to participate in many runs and half-marathons, with a goal of the Broad Street Run in Philadelphia in two weeks.

“Yeah, this one got me going,” he said.

Sasin was one of more than 600 other runners who said no to the chilly weather and yes to taking a jog for a good cause at the fourth annual Run for our Sons at Patton Middle School.

Originally created as part of the Patton Gives Back program, the event has grown each year and taken on a life outside of its roots, raising hundreds of thousands of dollars for the nonprofit Parent Project Muscular Dystrophy organization.

The run was first orchestrated to help provide support for Unionville High School teacher Joanna Johnson and her family, when her two sons — Elliott, 9, and Henry, 6 — were diagnosed with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, a rare and terminal degenerative disorder that affects young males.

Back in 2009, however, the Johnsons decided to donate the money to Parent Project Muscular Dystrophy, which not only looks for a treatment, but also works to spread awareness of the terminal disorder.

Since then, the run has attracted roughly 500 eager participants each year, and, according to Joanna Johnson, has often exceeded the organizers’ fundraising expectations.

“We were pretty close to $49,000 just online,” she said.

She also said she couldn’t believe the number of runners who showed up - most likely a record, she added.

“You can’t even possibly put it into words,” she said of the response. “Kids from the high school come out, we get support from the district office, the superintendent (John) Sanville comes out, Hillendale Elementary has a team and their mascot comes out – it’s amazing.”

Johnson said that the best part is that she sees more and more support each year, which means that the word is also getting out about Duchenne and Parent Project Muscular Dystrophy.

“The more people who know about this, the more chances we have to move treatments along,” she said. “I always think of the power of young people. And if they remember at some point when they want to pursue being a doctor or medical research, I hope they remember a piece of what they did here.”

Pottstown resident Lauren Fritz also has two sons with Duchenne, aged 9 and 6 – the exact same ages as Elliott and Henry.

She and her family have been at every run so far, and it’s a fair bet they’ll be back again next year.

“When we first were diagnosed, Paul reached out to me,” she said. “And we got connected and our families have been friends ever since.”

She also said despite the nature of the disease and its ultimate progression, the event is a great morale booster and another great way to spread the word about Parent Project Muscular Dystrophy and Duchenne.

“There are plenty of somber moments,” Fritz said, “but this isn’t one of them.”

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