Around South Hadley: Runner fighting cancer meets Boston Marathon goal

Last modified: Friday, April 25, 2014
SOUTH HADLEY — Teresa Fitts, a 20-year-resident of town and a professor of exercise science at Westfield State University, met her goal to start the Boston Marathon April 21 following a cancer diagnosis that came a few months into her training.

The run was Fitts’ first time participating in the Boston Marathon, which was “once in a lifetime experience,” she said in a telephone interview.

“So many runners going by would put their hand on my back and say, ‘I’m a survivor too,’” she recalled.

Fitts, 54, was diagnosed with stage 4 thymic carcinoma in December 2013, a rare cancer affecting the thymus, a gland in the upper chest that makes white blood cells. At the time, she was already a member of the marathon team raising money for the Dana Farber Institute, in honor of a high school classmate who died of melanoma.

Still, Fitts, a runner for 40 years, made it a goal to start the marathon.

She made it just past the 10k mark — the checkpoint she had hoped to reach — she said. She’s finished her fourth round of chemotherapy the week before.

“It felt fantastic to run again,” she said. “I am a runner. I am an exercise physiologist. I know about movement. I love running, and runners get that — the sense of loss when we don’t have an ability to run.”

For the first few months of chemotherapy and radiation, she kept up with her training by going to spin classes. In early April, her breathing improved to the point where she could run again.

Now, she said she generally exercises between 45 minutes and an hour each day by either walking, running, stretching or going to spin classes.

Fitts raised $20,000 for Dana Farber toward the $6 million raised by the fundraising team as a whole, she said. Included in the amount raised by Fitts was $6,500 raised earlier this month by more than 300 runners and walkers at “T’s Village 5K Run/2 Mile Walk to Conquer Cancer,” a fundraiser at the Strides Human Performance Institute in Northampton organized in honor of Fitts by Westfield State students Sean Vanzant of Springfield and Brittni Peck of Longmeadow.

With her at the marathon were her husband, Jim, their twin daughters, Mary and Sarah, 12, and her Westfield State colleague Holly Noun. Others shared their support through “prayers and text messages and (online) posts,” she added.

“All the people from Northampton and the local area — they were with me, even if they weren’t physically there,” Fitts said.


Fundraising races

Registration is open for the second annual TigerPride Trot 10k/5k Road Race planned for May 4 at 9 a.m., and also for the second annual “Run 2 Remember” at Buttery Brook Park May 24 at 10 a.m.

Proceeds from the TigerPride Trot, organized by the South Hadley Music Parents Association, benefit the South Hadley High School Music Programs.

The course begins and ends at South Hadley High School, 153 Newton St.

Advance registration is $30 for the 10k run and $20 for the 5k run or walk and is open online until 11:59 p.m. May 1. Forms can also be printed from www.southhadleymusic.org/tigerpridetrot/2014Registration.pdf and mailed by April 26 to TigerPride Trot, PO Box 63, South Hadley, MA 01075.

The first 150 participants to preregister in either the run or the walk will get a T-shirt.

Registration on the day of the event is $35 for the 10k and $25 for 5k and is open from 7:30 to 8:45 a.m.

The event also includes family-friendly festivities such as clowns, a DJ, a raffle and the Belchertown Twirlers.

Proceeds from the Run 2 Remember, organized by the South Hadley Memorial Day Parade Committee, will benefit the Pioneer Valley USO at Westover Air Reserve Base.

The 3.1-mile course will begin and end in Buttery Brook Park, 123 Willimansett St. (Route 33) and weave through residential side streets in the area. There will also be a 1-mile walk.

Registration in advance can be done online or the forms can be printed from the event’s Google site at sites.google.com/site/shmemorialday/home/run-to-remember-5k and mailed to: Veteran’s Agent, 116 Main St., South Hadley, MA 01075 Advance registration is $25. Anyone who registers by May 16 is guaranteed a moisture wicking T-shirt.

Registration on the day of the event is $30 and opens at 8:30 a.m.

The event also includes an after party with refreshments from Gagne Market and live entertainment from DJ Jay and Lindsey LaBelle.

Online registration for both events can be done at accu-specracing.com.


Good heart

Thanks to the efforts of Michael E. Smith Middle School eighth-grader Angela LeBel, over 1,000 pounds of clothing have been donated to children in need across the state, according to Principal Paul Plummer and Guidance Counselor Melissa Lake.

LeBel is the South Hadley Ambassador for Project 351, an effort launched in 2011 by Gov. Deval Patrick to inspire students to participate in community service. LeBel is among more than 200 ambassadors in communities across the state.

LeBel collected a total of 1,103 pounds of clothing at Michael E. Smith Middle School for the nonprofit Cradles for Crayons in Boston, which provides items for school, home and recreation to families living in homeless and low-income situations.

LeBel and more than 20 student and parent volunteers transported the donations, which filled 50 large bags, to a Cradles to Crayons donation site in Chicopee on April 11. An additional 25 bags of donations were also brought to Goodwill.


Interims named

Gerald A. Judge, Select Board Vice Chairman Francis J. DeToma, Schley Warren and Imad Zubi have been chosen as interim members of the town Redevelopment Authority.

A special Town Meeting in November established a five-member redevelopment authority to revitalize underdeveloped areas of town, such as the Falls neighborhood.

Four permanent members will be nominated and voted on by residents at the annual Town Meeting May 10, and the fifth member will be appointed by the state.

Judge, DeToma, Warren and Zubi were appointed by the Select Board in March. Judge, of North Main Street in the Falls, is chairman, and DeToma is vice chairman.

Anyone interested in serving as the state appointee is invited to submit a letter of interest and resume to Emma Goldstein, Deputy Director of Boards and Commissions at the Office of Deval Patrick, Massachusetts State House, Room 271-M, Boston, MA 02133 via e-mail at emma.goldstein@state.ma.us, and also send a carbon copy to Joyce Taylor at joyce.m.taylor@state.ma.us, Administrative Assistant in the Division of Public Housing & Rental Assistance of the Department of Housing & Community Development, 100 Cambridge Street, Suite 300, Boston, MA 02114. Additional letters of support for candidates are also accepted.

Redevelopment authority meetings are subject to open meeting laws. For information on when the authority meets, visit the meeting calendar on the town website at southhadley.org.