Members of the Edison High School football program will be among the more than 100 people who are expected to join The Marisa Tufaro Foundation’s team of runners and walkers in the fourth annual Race to Outrun Hunger.
The 5K, which benefits Hands of Hope, an Edison-based nonprofit committed to providing an efficient and centralized system for distributing food to alleviate hunger in the Middlesex County area, will be conducted Sunday, Oct. 15, at Roosevelt Park in Edison.
The Edison High School football program is collecting nonperishable items for Hands of Hope and will also make a donation to The Marisa Tufaro Foundation.
“In addition to being a football coach, I am also an educator, and I think it’s important to provide experiences beyond football,” said veteran Edison mentor Matt Fulham, who is also a special education math teacher at the high school. “Anytime you can give kids some life-experiences outside of football, and at the same time help the community, I think that’s important to kids growing into young men.”
Those in Fulham’s program have a tradition of giving back. In recent years, players have played bingo with residents of the New Jersey Memorial Veterans Home in Menlo Park, bagged groceries at the Edison ShopRite, and volunteered for Family Math Night and Read Across America Day at elementary schools in the township.
“Some people are more fortunate than others,” Fulham said, “and it’s important to give to those that maybe aren’t in as good a position as you are.”
Fulham said his players understand community service is a paramount component of The Marisa Tufaro Foundation, adding they were eager to participate in the Race to Outrun Hunger.
“I think it’s great that the kids were excited when I put it out there to them,” Fulham said. “They wanted to get involved. I’m happy they want to be a part of a great cause.”
Bell Pharmacy of Edison is the official sponsor of The Marisa Tufaro Foundation’s team.
A benefactor has covered in full the entry fees for those participating in the Race to Outrun Hunger from Edison High School, including members of the baseball program. In addition, participants from Edison High School will receive a free commemorative shirt, courtesy of The Marisa Tufaro Foundation.
The shirt bears a specially designed logo in the high school’s colors with angel’s wings flanking the school’s trademark ‘E’ above which a halo is positioned. The words “THE EDISON EAGLES FLY WITH AN ANGEL TO SUPPORT THE MARISA TUFARO FOUNDATION” are inscribed beneath the logo.
A nonprofit corporation with tax-exempt status pending, the foundation was established in loving memory of Marisa Tufaro, the 13-year-old daughter of Edison residents Greg and Cyndi Tufaro (EHS Class of ’88) who died earlier this year.
Marisa would have been a freshman at Edison High School, where many of her former classmates from James Monroe Elementary School and Herbert Hoover Middle School are currently students.
The foundation, which assists children in need throughout the greater Middlesex County area, is a fitting way to honor Marisa and keep alive her spirit. It allows Greg and Cyndi to give back to the residents of a community that has forever provided their family with overwhelming love and support.
As a student, Marisa joined her classmates, as well as the faculty and staff at James Monroe Elementary School, in collecting nonperishable food items to donate to Hands of Hope, whose mission of helping children in need and their families coincides with that of The Marisa Tufaro Foundation.
Others joining The Marisa Tufaro Foundation’s team for the 5K include students from the Chamberlain College of Nursing in North Brunswick, as well as a group of nurses from the Pediatric Cardiac Intensive Care Unit at New York Presbyterian’s Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital. They, too, will be equipped with free specially designed shirts bearing the foundation’s logo.
The nurses from New York Presbyterian worked relentlessly around the clock for Marisa, who was hospitalized for 161 of her final 214 days. The staff became Marisa’s second family. The compassion and expertise of the nurses, many of who attended Marisa’s wake and funeral, left an indelible impression on the Tufaros, who hold the New York Presbyterian staff in the highest regard.
Hands of Hope partners with JFK Medical Center, the New Jersey Institute for Disabilities and others. The Middlesex County Board of Chosen Freeholders, Edison Township Council, Edison P.B.A., Edison Senior Firefighters, Edison Public Schools, Boy Scouts of America, Girl Scouts of the USA and others support Hands of Hope.
To help the Hands of Hope food pantry serve those in need, the fourth annual Race to Outrun Hunger will be held Oct. 15 at Roosevelt Park in Edison. (Photo: ~Courtesy of Fred Lombardo)
“The money raised from The Race to Outrun Hunger enables us to purchase the extra food that families can no longer afford to buy for themselves,” Jackie Goedesky, president and founder of Hands of Hope, previously told the Home News Tribune. “We have many success stories. People receive food to carry them through bad times and then when they are back on their feet they come to ‘pay it forward’ by donating to our food pantry and, at times, to volunteer. Our donors are able to visually see where their money goes and they often comment that they are always shocked by the long lines of people on the days we are open and it encourages them to continue to donate to us.”
Marisa was born with a complex cardiac defect that required six open-heart surgeries. Despite keeping hundreds of doctor’s appointments and being hospitalized for more than two years, Marisa lived a vibrant life that inspired.
A heart transplant, performed to extend Marisa’s life, tragically cut it short after a post-operative complication developed into a rare form of Stage IV cancer. After radiation and chemotherapy treatments failed to thwart the relentless onslaught of an aggressive disease that riddled her brain and body, Marisa succumbed to her illness in January following a valiant battle.
Marisa required multiple medications daily since birth, and after her heart transplant was taking more than two dozen different prescriptions daily. The pharmacists at Bell Pharmacy were beyond accommodating in fulfilling Marisa’s needs, and were an integral part of Marisa’s healthcare throughout her life.
While entries for The Marisa Tufaro Foundation’s team are officially closed, those wishing to participate in the event independent of the foundation can do so by registering at the Race to Outrun Hunger’s official website racetooutrunhunger.com.
The Race to Outrun Hunger is conducted on a U.S. Track and Field certified course, featuring slight rolling hills in a beautiful 217-acre park.