By Bonnie Adams, Managing Editor
Southborough – John Megan has always loved to run, whether it was for exercise, a way to bond with his two young daughters as he pushed them in a stroller or for an important cause, such as running with the Dana Farber team during Boston Marathons. That was particularly meaningful, he said, because he ran in memory of his mother, who died of heart cancer in 1995.
Now, Megan is running Boston again – this time in honor of another beloved family member, his stepfather, Jack Brandley. Several years ago Brandley was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) or as it is commonly known, Lou Gehrig's disease. Megan will be running as a member of the UMass ALS Champion Fund.
Under the directorship of Robert H. Brown Jr., DPhil, MD, the UMass ALS Champion Fund aims to “pursue ALS research leads and breakthroughs right now that might otherwise take years to attract funding from traditional sources,” according to its website.
Former Governor of Massachusetts and Ambassador to Canada, A. Paul Cellucci, who is being treated by Brown for ALS, has been an advocate for the fund.
Although his family is devastated by Brandley's diagnosis, they are inspired, Megan said, by his “eternal optimism, his huge heart, and his desire to see a world without ALS.”
“He battles each day, relentlessly going through rehab and praying that someday a cure will be found,” he added.
Megan, who has resided in Southborough since 2004, now works for Fidelity Investments. He has also served in the U.S. Air Force, first at Patrick Air Force Base in Florida and then at Hanscom Air Force Base in Bedford. ?Although life is often busy, running for charities has often played a significant part.
“I ran the Boston Marathon with the ‘Dana Farber Marathon Challenge” (DFMC) team from 2001 to 2004, raising approximately $20,000 over those four years in support of cancer research. I took a break from marathons from 2005 to 2011, having gotten married in 2003 and having two beautiful girls,” he noted.
The “itch” to run persisted though, he said, and he decided last year to run a marathon in New Hampshire.
“The ultimate goal was to qualify for one more Boston and run one more time, but still run with Dana Farber,” he added.
His stepfather's ALS diagnosis was the “impetus to shift gears” and run with the ?ALS team instead, he noted.
“Last year, the first time the UMass ALS Champion Fund had a team running Boston, eight participants raised a total of approximately $80,000,” he said. “This year, seven of us runners hope to surpass that amount.”
According to the website www.alsa.org, approximately 5,600 people in the United States are diagnosed with ALS each year. The incidence of ALS is two per 100,000 people, and it is estimated that as many as 30,000 Americans may have the disease at any given time.
ALS is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. Early symptoms include muscle weakness or stiffness. The progression of weakness, wasting and paralysis of the muscles of the limbs and trunk as well as those that control vital functions such as speech, swallowing and later breathing often follow. The life expectancy is often two to three years after diagnosis, although many people live “with quality” for five years or more, according to the website.
To donate to Megan's fundraising efforts, one may do so through his personal ALS fundraising page,? ?http://www.crowdrise.com/teamumassmemorialfoundation/fundraiser/johnmegan/; via credit card by calling the UMass Fundraising office at 508-856-5520; or by sending a check to UMASS ALS Champion Fund, The UMass Medicine Development Office, 333 South Street, Shrewsbury, MA 01545.
Checks should be made payable to the UMass ALS Champion Fund and noted “John Megan/Boston Marathon” on the check.