Montclair runners hit the road for good causes
Long-distance running is a popular sport with many Montclair residents.
This spring, some of them are hitting the road to raise money for causes that are important to them and to many others.
Dr. Ed Gold, an orthodontist, will be running in the Boston Marathon on Monday, April 18, in a fundraiser for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
Brad Yankiver ran in the New York City Half Marathon on March 20 to raise money for the National Brain Tumor Society — both in honor of his wife, Heidi Woo, who has been battling the disease, and of a friend who passed away when Yankiver was in college.
Gold ran the Boston Marathon for the first time in 2016. This year’s will be his second.
Over the course of 35 years, Gold has come to know his patients and their families quite well. Several have lost someone — a parent, spouse, sibling or other relative — to suicide.
“You get to see so many families. And suicide has affected so many families directly,” he said.
“When you think about it, in other areas of medicine, [there’s] prevention for cardiac, obesity, high cholesterol,” he said, but for a long time there hasn’t been the same level of discussion around the prevention of suicide. “And we’re really just starting to talk about it.”
On his donor page on the marathon website, a lot of contributions have come from families that have lost friends and loved ones, or who have had friends and loved ones contemplate suicide.
Originally from Cedar Grove, Gold made his home and practice in Montclair after finishing his residency, and his children have all gone through the Montclair school system. “Been very happy being here and being part of this community,” he said.
He ran his first half-marathon in 2011, starting with the New Jersey Half Marathon in Monmouth. He followed that with the 2012 Philadelphia Half Marathon, and he discovered that he enjoyed the whole experience: “This is nice, I’m enjoying it, I’m going to run a marathon,” Gold remembered thinking.
Since then he has competed in marathons in New York, Boston, Chicago and elsewhere, often in support of the Montclair Public Library Foundation.
Neither Heidi Woo nor Brad Yankiver had been much into marathon running in the past.
In 2010, just before the couple got married, they decided to participate in the Pan Mass Challenge, a biking event that raises money for the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, but that was the extent of any major athletic fundraising.
Then, in 2014, Woo was diagnosed with an oligodendroglioma tumor, which was discovered while she was in a coma resulting from cardiac arrest.
Woo remembered the doctors telling the family that of the different forms of brain tumors, oligodendroglioma was one with a higher rate of survival: “If you have brain cancer, this is the cancer you want to have,” she said.
According to the National Cancer Institute, approximately 1,200 people are diagnosed with oligodendroglioma tumors in the United States each year, and an estimated 11,750 are currently living with the condition. The five-year survival rate is 74.1 percent.
Woo underwent successful surgery for the tumor, but it returned in 2017. By this time, the couple was expecting their first child, and they were hesitant to pursue chemotherapy. However, an oral medication had become available, thanks in part to the National Brain Tumor Society’s work.
“It’s been a long journey, with a lot of turns,” Yankiver said.
The family decided this year to participate in the New York City Half Marathon, with Yankiver running with a group of five other people to raise money for the NBTS, and with Woo acting as cheerleader from the sidelines. The overall NBTS team hoped to raise $30,000 from the marathon. Instead, the six-person group that Yankiver ran with raised $40,000, contributing to a grand total of $110,000 for NBTS.
The N.Y.C. Half Marathon was canceled in 2020 and 2021 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, so this was the first time in two years that the race went ahead.
Yankiver readily admits that he usually hates running. Some people might have asked, “Why not just raise money, why do a run?”
But after two years of isolation from the pandemic, to be out in public, among people again, all running to raise money for different causes, was a very joyful experience, he said.
The family moved from Brooklyn to Montclair “on a trial basis” in 2020, and is preparing to sell their old apartment in Brooklyn. The couple’s son, Benny, is now 4 years old and has already made friends with a lot of local children. The family has become active in many community groups, such as AAPI Montclair.
“I really believed in the strength and the power of the human spirit,” Woo said. To anyone else who might be going through something similar, she said, “I just wanted to say that whatever you’re going through, you’re not alone.”
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