Dodgeball tourney to help fight ALS
By Michelle Linn-Gust For The Sun January 22, 2013 10:20PM
Chris Benyo pushes his wife Denise DiMarzo, who has Lou Gehrig's disease, in the 2012 New Jersey Marathon. He plans to do it again in May 2013 to fundraise for the Les Turner ALS Foundation.
To be a Facebook friend of the dodgeball tournament search for “Dodgin-For Lou-Gehrig’s Dodge ball-Tournament”
To make a donation to Chris and Denise for the marathon run: http://newjersey.kintera.org/faf/donorReg/donorPledge.asp?ievent=1053167&lis=1&kntae1053167=7DB1B316F2824E0F8783CDBE1355862B&supId=343123669
For more information on the Les Turner ALS Foundation: www.lesturnerals.org
For more information on Restore the Shore: www.restoretheshore.com
Updated: February 24, 2013 6:12AM
Chris Benyo knows the importance of modeling behavior. After 23 years of working in School District 203 and 13 years at Meadow Glens Elementary School, the physical education teacher has learned a little something about working with kids.
After starting a running club for the fourth- and fifth-graders at the school, he realized it was important he show the kids he was invested, too.
“I knew I had better be able to run a mile myself,” he said. “We have 80 to 95 kids in the club and they’re buying into it, which is important.”
He never anticipated how far his influence would reach, though.
In 2010, after his wife Denise DiMarzo 50, was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s Disease (also known at ALS), a disease that causes motor neurons to gradually stop working and die, the couple wanted to keep their commitment to run a marathon together. Benyo, 47, pushed DiMarzo for the entire 26.2-mile 2012 New Jersey Marathon to raise money to fight the disease. They surpassed their $1,000 per mile goal, raising $40,000 for the Les Turner ALS Foundation.
Because of the influence their former teacher had on them, Madison Junior High eighth-graders and friends Delaney Gibbons and Taylor Morrissey organized a dodgeball tournament, accumulating $13,000, which was included in the total that Benyon and DiMarzo raised.
This year, Benyo is planning to push DiMarzo again in the May New Jersey Marathon. Their goal is again to reach $26,200. They also want to donate money to the Restore the Shore, which is funding rebuilding efforts following Hurricane Sandy.
Having learned some lessons from pushing DiMarzo last year, Benyo has a better idea of what to expect this time around.
“I told people last year was the most difficult marathon I’ve run in my life,” he said.
To be ready, he is running as much as possible, although the recent cold weather is too much for DiMarzo. He is focusing on eating better, drinking more water, and working with a chiropractor to combat back, shoulder, and neck issues that pushing the wheelchair caused.
“I’m going to be in pain no matter what,” Benyo said, “but I’m trying to stave it off as much as I can.”
Not only will Benyo and DiMarzo be in the marathon but Gibbons and Morrissey are hosting a second “Dodgin’ 4 Lou Gehrig’s Disease Dodgeball Tournament.” This one will take place at Naperville North High School beginning at 3 p.m. Feb. 15. The entrance fee is $3 and this time the goal is to raise $20,000.
They expect 500 people to compete in three divisions (junior high, high school, and parent). Last year, 22 teams competed, and organizers hope there to be 50 teams this time around.
“We didn’t expect it to be as big as it was,” Morrissey, 13, said.
The girls have approached organizations and companies for team sponsorships. They also received donations including DuPage Hounds tickets for team members.
And they know they couldn’t have done this without the support of their parents, friends, and other adults who have banded together.
“We never expected it to take off like it did but it was a no brainer to do,” parent Lisa Gibbons said of helping the girls. “It’s a wonderful thing that the community pulled together like it did.”
There was no discounting the girls wanting to help their teacher, either.
“He treats every kid like they are important, not just the kids in his class,” Lisa Gibbons said.
“Everyone really likes him,” Delaney Gibbons, 14, said. “When we heard (about his wife), we felt really bad.”
Benyo continues to be surprised at the number of people who have come out of the woodwork to donate to the cause, including many students he taught years ago.
“This is going to be a cool event,” Benyo said of the dodgeball tournament coming up. “One big Mr. Benyo group hug.”