By Bonnie Adams, Managing Editor
Shrewsbury – Liam Davidson has had a busy fall, handling a demanding workload as a sophomore at St. John's High School as well as participating in crew. But there was also one other major project that the 16-year-old had on his agenda over the past few months – taking a leadership role in helping to organize a major community event – the third annual Turkey Trot.
Liam's reason for helping with the event, which is a two- or five-mile walk, is a very personal one. The trot, to be held in Shrewsbury on Thanksgiving morning, Nov. 28, is in honor of his late grandfather, Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Justice Francis P. O”Connor, who died in 2007 of Alzheimer's disease.
Although most of his memories of his grandfather are when he was in the throes of his disease, Liam said he nevertheless has fond recollections of the times spent together.
“He was always still at the center of our family. We would all go to Mass together. We would also visit him at the Notre Dame du Sac [residential facility in Worcester],” Liam said.
But even as a young boy, Liam could see for himself, he said, the impact of Alzheimer's on not only the patient, but indeed the whole family.
“We'se seen how awful the journey is. You don's want others to go through this,” he said. “It hurts very deeply when their memory fades and they can's remember their spouse or children. But you realize it's not because there is a lack of love or care.”
As they raised their family of 10 children, Justice O”Connor and his wife Ann had always stressed the importance of exercise. The tradition of a Thanksgiving morning Turkey Trot was established years ago as a way for the family to spend quality time together before going off to their respective plans for the day.
In 2011 the family decided to open up the event to the community at large as a way to not only honor the memory of their patriarch but to also raise funds for a disease that has devastated so many other families.
The trot starts at the Shrewsbury Common and loops through the town, ending at the Shrewsbury Public Library on Main Street. There is also a two-mile option for those who choose not to do the full five-mile course.
Jane O”Connor Lizotte, one of Justice O”Connor's daughters and Liam's aunt, stressed that although participants will be timed, the focus of the trot is not on competition but rather on the camaraderie of community.
“There is no better time to be with your family and community and to give thanks for what you have,” she added.
“It is a fundraiser, but also a great way to bring people together to celebrate the gift of one another and life,” Liam added.
The first year there were 512 participants. That total doubled last year, Jane said. Nearly $45,000 was raised the first two years for the Alzheimer's Association's Mass./N.H. chapter.
Registrations are now being accepted via the website, www.turkeytrotforthememory.org. New this year will be chance to register the day before, Wednesday Nov. 27, from 3-6 p.m. at the First Congregational Church, 19 Church Road.
“We are hoping for another great turnout this year,” Jane said. “We would also love another 35 volunteers or so, even if they could only volunteer for an hour. It's a nice way to still participate if you don's want to walk or run.”
Volunteers can sign up through the website. Information about the race course and suggested parking is also there.
The day of the event will feature live entertainment from local band the Sage Project.
The fee for the five-mile race is $20 before the event and $25 that day. For the two-mile run, a $5 donation is encouraged; a $20 donation includes a T-shirt. Monies raised will benefit the Alzheimer's Association's Mass./N.H. chapter.
Updates can also be found on Facebook and Twitter.
Committee members include Jim Heald, David Lizotte, Dana Canzano, Leigh O”Connor, Glen Lucchese and Amy Kotsopoulos.