By Angela Rodriguez
Gordon College News Service
September 2, 2011
(This story appeared September 6, 2011, in the Boston Globe Peabody section online.)
PEABODY, MA- When Audrey Gordon of Peabody, 49, contacted her city officials about holding a benefit road race for Progeria, a rapid aging disease found in children, she wasn’t sure if anyone would come. Today there are 300-400 participants and on Saturday, Sept. 10 at 9 a.m. the Race for Research will celebrate its 10th anniversary.
As the executive director of Progeria Research Foundation, Gordon says they are on track to reach their goal of raising $25,00 for research during this year’s race. The 2-mile fun run/walk starts at Peabody City Hall (4 Lowell Street) and is a community event open to families and companies who want to take part in the activities for a good cause.
Progeria, a rare disease discovered soon after birth, affects a child’s growth, skin aging, and hair loss early on. The Progeria Research Foundation (PRF) was founded after Dr. Leslie Gordon (Audrey’s sister) and Dr. Scott Berns were told their 22-month-old son Sam had Progeria, also known as Hutchinson-Gilford Progeria Syndrome. They found a lack of research and information on the disease, and opened the only non-profit Progeria research center in the world.
Since that time, PRF was the driving force behind the discovery of the Progeria gene, and has developed programs and services to assist both those affected by HGPS and the scientists who are researching the disease, according to its web site. 78 children in 31 countries are living with Progeria.
Executive Director Gordon has been leading the foundation ever since and has a personal connection not only to Sam, her nephew, but also her hometown of Peabody.
“The goal is to develop a cure for the disease and raise awareness,” Gordon said. “Local events (like the race) are a great way to raise money for further research and bring people together.”
GraVoc Associates, a technology consulting firm in Peabody, participates in the race every year. They have been involved since the beginning with fundraising and by sponsoring the event day t-shirts.
“Every year it gets bigger and bigger,” said Cathy Gravel, 53, vice president of GraVoc Associates who, along with her husband Dave Gravel, grew up with Gordon in Peabody. “The support is awesome. Everyone is there for the right reasons, and that’s for the kids.”
Another supporter and participant in the race is Dan Vasallo of Peabody, 26, an employee at GraVoc Associates. He ran last year, and won the prize for finishing first over all the other runners and walkers.
“I think it’s great that a local organization has reached such a large international level,” Vasallo said. He will be running again this year, along with seven other runners and three walkers from GraVoc Associates.
Gordon said that the Race for Research is a community event that all can take part. She is particularly looking forward to having Sam—who starts high school this year—present the awards at the end of the race.
For more information on the Race for Research on September 10th, or the Progeria Research Foundation, visit http://www.progeriaresearch.org/10th-race-for-research.html