Beth approached me a few months back asking if I would join her in a 5K Run/Walk fund raiser that her father Allen’s family was organizing in late May. The response? Absolutely!
She then filled out the forms and sent in entries for the two of us and her parents.
Chris Guzikowski, the son-in-law of Allen’s cousin Gary is diagnosed with Huntington’s disease. Like most topics, if it is one I’m unfamiliar with or one that I want more information about, The Google is utilized for as much knowledge as possible.
The first paragraph of the first search item from the Huntington’s Disease Society of America (HDSA) website is sobering:
“Huntington’s disease (HD) is a fatal genetic disorder that causes the progressive breakdown of nerve cells in the brain. It deteriorates a person’s physical and mental abilities usually during their prime working years and has no cure.”
If diseases were like Star Trek episodes or movies, this one would be the Kobayashi Maru test of diseases. It is a no win scenario. However, like Captain James Tiberius Kirk there are many families who do not believe in the No Win scenario.
Meet Team Guzi.
Upon hearing the word of Chris’ diagnosis, the family went to work to spread awareness and raise money for community outreach, research and awareness. The 5K Run Walk named Guzi’s Hunt for the Cure at Lake Vista Park in Oak Creek began to be organized.
Beth made reservations at a hotel near her dad’s cousin’s home in Oak Creek. We had dinner at cousin Gary and Carolyn’s home the evening before the event. Gary brought us up to speed on Chris and this little known disease. It was clear that Gary and Carolyn have great respect for Chris.
To be honest I didn’t know just exactly who Chris Guzikowski was until having dinner with Beth’s extended family Saturday evening. In addition to being their daughter Colleen’s husband, Chris is the current 6th District Alder Person for Oak Creek and the 2018 Oak Creek citizen of the year.
A detail that Gary filled us in on for the event on Sunday that surprised me was the number of entrants. Over 1000. This was to be a much bigger deal than I imagined. At that point we committed to arriving at Lake Vista Park before 8:00 am to assure a close parking spot.
We arrived at the park early and almost all parking spots were full. We claim one of the last dozen or so parking spaces in the park and set up camp. Set up was pretty easy; four bag chairs next to Gary and Carolyn between the concessions stand and a portable stage that the organizers and honored speakers used to communicate with participants.
Beth had many conversations throughout the morning with Chris’ family. We discovered that total entries after ‘day of’ sign ups and virtual entries was almost 1,100. At $40 per entry that’s $44,000 raised just from entrants. There were also raffles and sponsorship donations that nearly doubled this number.
I’m sure the family was drained of energy after the race, but you couldn’t tell. We all met for a family photo after the race. I was honored to be invited into the fold. I got to meet many from this extended family who said that they felt they knew me based upon reading Beth’s social media entries. That was heart warming.
The 5K traveled along the beautiful shoreline of Lake Michigan in Oak Creek, WI. It was a rainy Sunday morning. Runners love to run in a light rain, walkers…not so much. But everyone in our slow paced pack was in a great mood. It was an event for most, not a competition.
Allen and I walked the entire 5K. Beth and Helen stayed back with Gary and Carolyn. How did Allen and I do? We finished in a little over one hour, 20 minute miles. My worst 5K time ever. (In the day I would’ve run it in about 21 minutes.) Father time and ballooning from a svelte 170 pounds in my late 20s to a current Buddha like 220 pounds does not help. Plus I found out later that evening at the local ER that I participated while suffering from Diverticulitis (Yes, another post will deal with this topic). But…that is child’s play compared to what Chris is battling.
The winner? A young man from Oconomowoc, WI (If you are not from WI, you will never guess how to pronounce Oconomowoc!) named Alexander Betances crossed the finish line first with a time of 17 minutes 48 seconds. He is the 25-28 age group.
Battle on Chris and Team Guzi. Cpt Kirk and I are on your side.
If you wish to learn more; here is the HDSA website: