These kids are running for lives.
More than 500 youngsters aged 5 through 15 jogged the streets of Dyker Heights on June 1 to raise money for a neighborhood foundation combating children’s cancer.
The Dyker Heights Athletic Association — which organized the event with some help from the Saint Bernadette School and Investors Bank — has held fund-raising races for civic causes for the past seven years. This year, they were able to collect more than $43,000 for the Olivia Boccuzzi Foundation, named for a 23-month-old Dyker girl who died last August after nearly a year battling brain cancer.
Olivia’s mother, Enza Boccuzzi, said she and her husband Frank started the foundation to compensate for a lack of financing and awareness of the children’s cancer issue.
“We never realized what’s out there until we were drafted into this horrible world,” said Bocuzzi. “In a hope to keep her memory alive, we’ve started this foundation and try to raise money any way we can.”
Bocuzzi approached athletic association president Peter McCarthy about holding this year’s race for the new charity. McCarthy said he was immediately eager to work with a group from the neighborhood, and set about recruiting kids from Saint Bernadette’s and other Dyker schools to participate. The children in turn got adults to sponsor them in the race, raising at least $40 each — and some getting far more.
On Saturday, the boys and girls — including Enza’s son James — ran from Saint Bernadette’s at 82nd Street and 13th Avenue, over to 12th Avenue, down to 71st Street, and back over onto 13th Avenue and up to the school building again. Boccuzzi said it was a powerful sight.
“It was an amazing event. There was a lot of emotion behind it, and it was really successful,” said Bocuzzi.
McCarthy said he hopes this year’s race — like the others before it — will instill a strong sense of civic responsibility in the children.
“We’re trying to teach our kids to do things for other people and become community leaders,” McCarthy said.