By Karen Forman
The bitter cold weather didn’t stop approximately 500 courageous souls who braved the -2 “feels like” temperatures to run Maggie’s Mile at Sunken Meadow State Park in Kings Park on New Year’s Day.
Kieran Gibbons, a member of Northport Running Club, stood alone at the starting line while hundreds of runners huddled indoors at the Sunken Meadow Golf Course Clubhouse waiting for the race to begin.
“I am a longtime friend of Maggie’s family,” Gibbons said, “and this is a healthy way to start the New Year and raise money for pediatric cancer research.”
According to Steve Schmidt, “The event raised nearly $10,000 for the nonprofit Maggie’s Mission,” which will donate the funds toward research of malignant rhabdoid tumors at Memorial Sloan Kettering in memory of his daughter, Maggie.
Greenlawn teen Maggie Schmidt was only 16 years old when she was diagnosed with a rare and aggressive form of cancer, malignant rhabdoid tumors, in October 2016. She died after a nine-month battle June 1, 2017. Many who took part in Monday’s event were members of the Northport Running Club, of which Steve Schmidt and other family and friends are members.
“After everything Steven and Donna and the family went through, we wanted to come together as a community to support them,” said Erica Fraiberg, a member of the running club.
Fraiberg finished second in the women’s division with a time under 6 minutes. The top two finishers were Alex Eletto, 20, of Stony Brook, for the men’s division who finished the mile-long course in 4:48 and Amanda Scanlon, 38, of Northport, who finished in less than 6 minutes.
Maggie’s father, a third-grade teacher at Maplewood Elementary School in South Huntington, ran the race dressed as Father Time with support from his students. Eight-year-olds Priscilla Kenny and Michael
Ferdinando are in Schmidt’s class this year and came to run Maggie’s Mile, along with Michael’s older brother Joe, age 10.
“We love our teacher,” Michael said. “We wanted to do this. We made our shirts for the race. We have to run for Maggie’s Mission.”
Schmidt’s son, also named Steve, 20, proudly displayed a freshly inked tattoo on his arm for his late sister. He recalled how he and his dad were hiking out West in August 2016 when they got a call that Maggie was in the emergency room at Huntington Hospital.
“Maggie had internal bleeding,” he said. “They thought she had a burst cyst and that she would be fine.”
The late Greenlawn teen was still bleeding after surgery and had to be transferred to Cohen’s Children’s Hospital, according to her brother, where she then underwent a second surgery within three days and multiple blood transfusions.
For more than two months, the Schmidt family ushered their daughter back and forth to the ER and to various doctors, without a firm diagnosis of what was wrong. It wasn’t until October 2016 when Maggie underwent a third emergency surgery during which doctors found the multiple tumors in her abdomen.
“We need to raise money to fund more research,” the brother said. “We have almost no information about this disease. It’s so rare, that there aren’t enough cases.”
To learn more about Maggie’s Mission, visit the nonprofit organization’s website at www.maggiesmission.org.