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Turkey Trot Donations, Annual Awards, Elections Highlight Evening

By Jamie Kempton

RRR celebrated the new year in style with a packed house at the January 8 kickoff meeting at Prohibition River in Nyack. With one of the largest meeting turnouts in recent memory, the gathering took on a festive atmosphere as outgoing president John MacKenzie relayed the baton to incoming leader John Altieri. Large donations, prestigious awards, club elections and even a freebie for attendees – this affair had a little of everything!

First, the donations. Year in and year out, Turkey Trot race director Dave Goldwasser does a marvelous job coordinating our largest event of the year, and the 2017 edition was no exception. With 3,363 registered entrants and more than 2,900 participants, the race again made Rockland Lake the center of the region’s running universe on Thanksgiving Day. Amazingly, the race generated $120,000 for local charities, topped by the unprecedented total of $100,000 donated to the Marisa Fund, which raises money for research, treatment and care of pediatric cancer patients. The charity seeks to improve the chances of survival for children with cancer undergoing blood and bone marrow transplants, and to reduce the risks of their associated therapies. Dave founded the Marisa Fund in memory of his daughter, Marissa Goldwasser, a former track runner at Clarkstown North High School who died of Hodgkins lymphoma in 2003, at age 20.

Proceeds from the race were also distributed to six other charities: $8,000 to People to People, Rockland’s largest food pantry, providing food and other services to families and seniors in need; $6,000 to the Rockland County Police Hispanic Society; $4,000 to the Rockland Road Runners Scholarship Fund; and $500 each to the Congers/Valley Cottage Ambulance Corps, the Salvation Army/Rockland County Corps, and the Blue Knights law enforcement motorcycle club. Dave also presented the race’s Hero Award to Will Fernandez of Citrin Cooperman, which made a $5,000 donation to the Turkey Trot, and the Volunteer Award to Bernie Casserly.

Bernie also had the singular distinction of having the club’s overall Volunteer of the Year Award named in his honor. In his acceptance speech, Bernie noted he joined the club 32 years ago at the urging of friend and club member Ellie McKenna, and expressed pride at being associated with a club filled with great people, supporting excellent charities, and having developed a reputation for conducting professionally run races. At age 75, he seems to have hardly slowed down in his commitment and passion for the club. Thanks for all you do, Bernie!

The club’s highest honor, the Don Cordisco Award, is presented for long-term contributions to the organization. It speaks volumes that this year’s recipient, Mike Seidenfrau, earned the award after just five years. But during those five years, he took an already successful race, the Women’s Distance Festival 5K, and transformed it into a major extravaganza, doubling the number of participants to more than 1,100 women and raising a record $33,000 for the Center for Safety and Change at the 30th annual edition last July. Mike also served as race director for the Bill Fortune race for two years, and volunteers eagerly for all the club’s races. Mike is on a hot streak, having won the George Wodicka Inspiration Award last year. Keep up the good work, Mike!

Other award winners included: Lifetime Achievement Award to Marie “Grandma” Killeen, who has run 25 marathons in her 30-plus years of running, won the 70-74 age group at the Boston Marathon a decade ago, and at age 80 is still putting the younger runners to shame; Male Runner of the Year, Clayton Combe, the race director for the South Nyack 10-Mile; Female Runner of the Year, Barbara Paer; George Wodicka Inspiration Award, Alyssa Holland and Gail Lazerus, who coordinate the children’s summer track program and Kids’ Run, and Jesse Hackell and Jamie Kempton, who head up the adults summer track sessions.

The RRR Board of Directors recommended a slate of officers for the 2018-2019 term, and the nominees were unanimously endorsed by the enthusiastic membership at the meeting. John Altieri ascends from vice president to president; Gary Holland moves into the vice president’s position; Lauren Gray takes over as secretary; and Bill Carpenter retains the role of Treasurer. He chuckled at the title of “Treasurer For Life” bestowed upon him by appreciative club members who are grateful for his many years of professional service to the organization.

John Altieri’s popularity soared immediately when he announced the distribution of free club singlets. OK, it had been announced previously in meeting promos on the website – which may be why the turnout was so great! – but nonetheless John scored some points with the assembled faithful by introducing the singlets, whose design is still being finalized, as well as the new club T-shirts for sale, designed by Jonathan Farrell, who designed the previous shirts too! Kudos to Jonathan for also taking over the role of chair of the RRR Scholarship Committee from longtime leader Mike Angarola, and for being installed as a Board member of the Marisa Fund.

Congratulations to all and thanks for making RRR such a vibrant and fun organization. Hope to see you at the Bill Fortune Run on March 3 and the next club meeting in March!

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