Lauren’s Foundation hosts largest 5K fundraiser yet in Wyomissing

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Fitzy’s Halloween 5K event returned on Sunday with what organizers predicted to be a record number of attendees.

About 600 people of all ages, many in costume, took part in the race starting and ending at The Stone House in Wyomissing, with more lingering in the park for food and entertainment before, during and after.

The turnout was wonderful but bittersweet, Michael Fitzgerald said of the annual event held to honor the memory of his daughter Lauren Fitzgerald.

A lifelong resident of Berks County, Lauren died at the age of 20 in 2005 from complications from a brain tumor.

The charity, Lauren’s Foundation, has since helped local people with scholarships, financial donations for families and brain tumor research, and organ donor awareness.

“It’s always bittersweet because of why we do it,” Fitzgerald said. “But at the same time, we can do more in the community. “

After a one-year hiatus in 2020 due to COVID-19 in which the event took place virtually, Fitzy’s 5K Halloween has returned for its 17th fundraiser and run.

“It’s really cool to see how people continue to support us all these years later,” said Fitzgerald. “It’s hard to find words to express this.

Michael Fitzgerald (right) and his wife, Sorita, address the crowd gathered at The Stone House in Wyomissing ahead of Fitz’s Halloween 5K event. (Andrew Kulp)

Huge sacrifices

Before the race, Fitzgerald and his wife, Sorita, tried to find the words, thanking sponsors, volunteers and everyone present for honoring their daughter’s memory.

Since 2005, the Lauren’s Foundation has raised more than $ 300,000, awarded 75 scholarships and helped 14 families, according to the association’s website. Fitzgerald said the organization predicts it will exceed $ 100,000 in scholarships just next spring.

He also highlighted the efforts of members of the Delta Phi Epsilon sorority at Drexel University, where Lauren was a student. The club travels from the Philadelphia campus to participate, volunteer or show support as it can.

“The girls who are here have never met Lauren,” Fitzgerald said. “There are more than 50 of you here. They come out in large numbers every year.

Participants also heard from Waylon Deans, son of Maryann Deans, who received Lauren’s lungs after her death.

Maryann Deans has since passed away, but Waylon continues to return to Fitzy’s 5K Halloween to show her appreciation and highlight the importance of organ donors.

“Lauren was luckily signed up to be an organ donor, and it gave her (Maryann) an extra seven years of a wonderful life,” said Waylon Deans. “She was a completely different woman. She could breathe again.

“Please consider becoming an organ donor because even if you experience loss it gives another family a different life. “

Fitzy’s 5K Halloween event men’s costume contest contestants will be judged by the crowd on Sunday. (Andrew Kulp)

Fitzy’s 5K is growing

While so much has already been accomplished on Lauren’s behalf, the Fitzy 5K Halloween is showing signs of becoming an even bigger deal, Fitzgerald observed.

In addition to the annual pre-race costume competition for adults and children, a children’s Halloween parade was held afterwards. Food trucks were on the scene for the first time, adding to the festival vibe.

“We used to do the food service ourselves, and the event grew to the point where it became too much for us,” said Fitzgerald.

With the recent opening of the Drexel University College of Medicine campus in Wyomissing, the school contacted the Lauren’s Foundation and offered activities for children and information about its programs.

“They actually approached us and said, ‘Hey, we’ve heard about Lauren’s story, we’d love to participate,'” said Fitzgerald.

“We’re talking about doing some things jointly where we can maybe help some students with scholarships. “

Fitzgerald said that as the program continues to expand, he is considering potential donations to the borough, possibly to build a suitable playground for children with special needs in Wyomissing.

“It wouldn’t be possible nor the work we do in the community to support families who need help without your support, so thank you from the bottom of my heart for all of this,” said Fitzgerald.

The children’s parade at Fitzy’s Halloween. (Courtesy of Michael Fitzgerald)


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