Smithtown runs with the bulls for charity

Smithtown runs with the bulls for charity

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Hundreds of residents showed off their athleticism and generosity this past weekend in Smithtown during the 12th annual 5K Running of the Bull, which benefits local children in need.

On the grounds of the New York Avenue Smithtown Central School District administrative building, spectators rang mini cowbells and giant speakers played the “Rocky” theme song as more than 200 runners raced down a 3.1-mile course along Forestwood Park to the finish line during this year’s fundraiser. The competitors ranged in age from 11 to 82. Each finisher was met at the end of the race with cheers from family and friends, food from local eateries and raffle drawings.

Commack resident Stephen Abruzzo, 47, who came in first with a run time of 18 minutes 28 seconds, has been running in the Greater Smithtown Chamber of Commerce event since it began in 2006.

“It’s all about giving back to the local charity,” Abruzzo said. “This is a great cause and this race is a great reflection of the Smithtown community.”

Dominick LoGiudice came from Patchogue to take part in the event for the first time.

“I heard it’s a well-run event and the charity angle is unbelievable,” he said. “We all have to do our part.”

All proceeds from the 5K Running of the Bull go to Angela’s House, a Hauppauge-based nonprofit with locations in East Moriches, Smithtown and Stony Brook that assists families caring for children with special health care needs. The funds primarily cover the costs of what insurance companies won’t, like sending a child to a specialty camp or providing expensive mobility equipment such as adaptive strollers.

The race helps the 25-year organization continue to provide special needs families the ‘yes’ after everybody else says ‘no,’ according to founder and executive director, Bob Policastro, who also competed.

“When a parent sees an event like this advertised, it’s like, ‘Wow, my town is supporting an agency that’s supporting us,’” Policastro said. “A lot of them feel very alone as their life can be restricted. So when they know a community is rallying around them, it’s like a boost that they need and deserve.”

When Mark Mancini of the Greater Smithtown Chamber of Commerce first joined the group in 2005, he said he pitched the idea of a 5K run for a charity, which he said was met with lukewarm responses from his fellow board members.

“It was a little shocking to me,” he said. “But that all changed after the first Running of the Bull. The chamber after that wanted to get charities for everything. One event basically kick-started others.”

Mancini said after he learned about Angela’s House and Policastro — who started the organization after his own daughter died from medical complications in 1990 — he was determined to make it the focus of the run. The race has also benefited other charities over the years, such as The Courtney Sipes Memorial Foundation, a nonprofit founded in memory of a Smithtown student struck and killed by a car on Main Street in 2009.

“This is so important,” Mancini said. “It’s such a positive event and just the thing that we need.”

Barbara Franco, executive director of the chamber, agreed.

“It’s a fabulous day for the community, for families, for children, for pets,” Franco said with a laugh and pointed out a bulldog dressed in an event T-shirt. “If mom is running, dad and the kids cheer her on. If dad’s running, the whole family’s behind him.”

Chamber president, Robert Cartelli, who led the 1K fun run for young children and their parents before the main race, said this is among his favorite events in Smithtown.

“I love it,” Cartelli said. “I look at this community as a pulse of Long Island and I’m very happy to be part of this family event. It’s the best.”

A check with funds raised by the event will be presented to Angela’s House during the chamber’s holiday party in December.

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