Event brings awareness to alopecia areata
Steven Di Silvestro stands with his 9-year-old son, Marco, who was diagnosed with alopecia areata, before the start of the Rotary Interact 5K Run/Walk for Alopecia Areata at Ridgewood. | Tina Harle~for Sun-Times Media
Updated: July 3, 2012 11:52AM
It all began with three men in search of an event.
Ridgewood Athletic Director Rob St. John was looking to establish a 5K run at the school, but didn’t have a cause. Special Education teacher Jeremy Lee was looking for a way for the Rotary/Interact Club within the school to have a big charitable event. Local resident Steven Di Silvestro was looking for a way to raise awareness for a condition that his son has, but he wasn’t sure how.
The three of them were able to find each other and put together the inaugural 5K race through the streets around the school to benefit and raise awareness for alopecia areata May 13. It is a non-life threatening, but life altering condition that causes hair loss all over the body.
Di Silvestro’s 9-year-old son Marco was diagnosed with the disease about a year ago after shaving his head to honor an ill teacher. His hair never grew back.
Di Silvestro and his wife Jenny also have a daughter Alessia (7) and a son Luca (5).
“We need more awareness,” said Di Silvestro. “It’s not about getting money but about self-esteem. I found the Children’s Alopecia Project when my son was diagnosed, and Jeff (Woytovich from Wyomissing, PA) really helped. My son’s self-esteem has been great.
Marco and every other person with the condition couldn’t help but have their self-esteem bolstered by the more than 300 runners, 40 volunteers, and a number of sponsors. Together they helped raise at least $6,000 for the cause.
“We used to do a Memorial Day race, but it stopped about 10 years ago,” said St. John. “I’ve wanted to organize something like this since I became athletic director (last year), but linking up with a cause was the goal.”
St. John was able to get in touch with Brian Gaseor, Norridge Building Department director and village engineer, and the ball started rolling toward this event.
Lee is in his third year teaching Special Education at Ridgewood and was trying to find more outlets for the Rotary/Interact Club to benefit the community in his second year as head of that organization. They’ve delivered dictionaries to third-graders and helped with Bottomless Closet that provides appropriate clothing for unemployed women to go on job interviews as well as having helped with the Salvation Army toy drive around Christmas time.
“Last year was a trial year for the club at Ridgewood,” Lee said. “We’ve been working on this through the year. Since the fall, we started to divvy up our roles and meet at least once a week and two-to-three times a week as we got closer.”
Di Silvestro is owner of a restaurant, the Original Luke’s on Harlem, and he helped find other sponsors like Greco and Sons, Signs 1, Mug’s, the Original Nana’s, Belmont Bank & Trust, CLM Midwest, Northern, Park ’N Jet, Cumberland Funeral Chapels, Skinny G Urbanwear, and Parkway Bank to sponsor T-shirts. Angelo Caputo’s Fresh Markets provided bananas to the runners at the finish line while Jumpin’ Joey Moon Walk Rentals provided inflatable bouncers for youngsters to play on. Pepsi provided Gatorade while AthletiCo made sure everyone made it through the event injury free. There was popcorn and face painting as well.
Ten days before the race there were less than 100 runners registered, but that more than doubled by race day to 205 with around another 100 showing up on Sunday to run. With the late rush, they ran out of T-shirts. Target supplied gift bags.
Many running teams were part of the event such as Ella’s A-Team, Syd’s Squad, Brickton Running Club, and Team Green, which was made up of Ridgewood faculty and staff. The Dolphins, Aidan’s Avengers, and Choices, an organization at Ridgewood headed by Kathleen Leynes, also ran. Bethany Abercrombie helped get volunteers from the Class of 2013, while Pam Mundy and the National Honor Society did the same. There was great cooperation with the Norridge and Harwood Heights Police Departments as well as Norridge Public Works and the Norwood Park Fire Department.
While all the numbers of runners, sponsors, and volunteers say the event was a success, just seeing and speaking to the reason everyone came together says more than anything on the day’s impact.
“It’s really a lot of fun to have this event,” said Marco Di Silvestro, who finished his 5K in an estimated 30 minutes, 15 seconds. “It’s special seeing so many friends and family. It’s fantastic that (my dad) did this to get awareness.”