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Runners, walkers, rollers take strides toward cure for ALS

By Jennifer Lee Preyss
March 4, 2012 at 11 p.m.
Updated March 4, 2012 at 9:05 p.m.

Runners take off at the 5K benefit at Riverside Park. The proceeds will be donated toward research for ALS.

STROLL, ROLL 'N' RUN WINNERS

UNDER 18

Male: Paul Cobler, 14, of Victoria, 23.19 minutes

Female: Jocee Bennett, 14, of Cuero, 22.54 minutes

AGES18-39 years old

Male: Eric Alvarez, 18, of Victoria, 21.28 minutes

Female: Heidi Hassel, 25, of Olathe, Kan., 23.58 minutes

AGES 40-59

Male: Michael Fezchak, 53, of Victoria, 21.32 minutes

Female: Dawn Brown, 45, of Victoria, 24.21 minutes

OVER 60

Male: Larry Ullman, 69, of Victoria, 25.14 minutes

Female: Jane Hassel, 61, of North Platte, Neb., 37.45 minutes

OVERALL WINNER

Male: John Cuellar, 33, of Victoria 18.27 minutes

Female: Denise Tomanek, 34, of Victoria, 21.40 minutes

Standing before a crowd of about 200 ALS supporters on Sunday at the Riverside Park Special Events Arena, Bailey and Tanner Fox led a short prayer.

The bleachers were filled with faithful followers of God and faithful supporters of raising money and awareness for ALS, or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.

A cool morning breeze blew through the field, as the Fox siblings asked God for the broken and disabled to be healed, and for the weak to be made strong.

Their father, Craig Fox, spent almost four years raising awareness for the disease, which took his life in August 2011.

The morning worship service kicked off the 3rd annual Stroll, Roll 'n' Run 5-kilometer event in the park, organized this year in Fox's memory.

"I was nervous to speak in front of that many people. But to know this many people are out here because of my dad - it feels good," Bailey, 13, said.

The race was organized by the Revs. Bill Hassell and Amy Danchik, along with dozens of volunteers. Hassell was diagnosed several years ago with the disease, which slowly robs its victims of using the muscles in their body.

At the close of the worship service, race volunteers passed around bottles of oil, and anointed the foreheads of the faithful with a healing sign of the cross.

After the service, the race featured three start times, beginning at 11:45 a.m. for the runners, and ending at 1:30 p.m. for the wheelchair participants.

Because many of Sunday's racers had health challenges, the race allowed participants to run, walk, or roll in their wheelchairs.

Hassell said he enjoyed the morning worship service that focused on healing and was thrilled to participate in the race himself.

He also predicted his wheelchair would be the first over the finish line.

"You're dang right I'm going to win," Hassell said, smiling.

In the past two years, the Stroll, Roll 'n' Run has raised about $43,000 for ALS research for the ALS Therapy Development Institute.

This year, before race day, the Rev. Jerry Wirtley said fundraising efforts had already exceeded $20,000.

"We're well going to pass our goal," race organizer Wirtley said.

Bailey said she enjoys participating in events like Stroll, Roll 'n' Run because it gives men and women the opportunity to help others who might not be able to help themselves.

"People need to be reminded that everything in the world is not about them. It's about everyone around them. And that not everyone has the ability to do the same things as you," she said. "By doing something like this, you can reach out and make a difference."

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