Rallying For Team Zoey

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Zoey Penny at her baptism, with her parents Laura and Ian Penny.

In the current economic climate, raising $10,000 is a major project, one that might even give seasoned fund raisers pause. If you’re novice fund raisers, the conventional wisdom would have been to say forget about it. But if you don’t stop to think about the obstacles and focus only on the goal–a cure for a life-threatening disease that affects children–it’s amazing what can be achieved.

For the past few months, Jessica Bishop  and Kathleen Quinn have been working to organize a 5k run and fun walk to benefit the Progeria Research Foundation.  PRF works to find treatments and cure for progeria, an aging disease that affects Verona toddler Zoey Penny. They set themselves a goal of raising $10,000 and opened an online donation site. They set up Facebook and Twitter pages for the event, and shared them with friends, family and school contacts. And then they got the surprise of their lives.

“Initially we would have been happy just to get $50,” says Quinn. “But we hit $10,000 fast. There are hundred of dollars coming in through the Web site. I don’t know where it is all coming from.”

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As of 7 a.m. this morning, the first annual Miles for Miracles Turkey Trot has  $17,174 in pledged donations. Bishop and Quinn are allowing same-day registration, so by the time the first runners step off in Verona Park this Saturday, November 26, the total for “Team Zoey”, as all the fund raisers organized in Zoey Penny’s name have come to be known, could be a whole lot more. ” We just wanted to help,” says Bishop.

Zoey Penny, who recently turned two,  is one of just 17 children in America–and 78 in the entire world–who has progeria. This past summer, a scientific study posited that an immune suppressing drug, called rapamycin, might be a treatment for progeria, though not a cure. The Progeria Research Foundation intends to conduct clinical trials that will include Zoey. You can read more about the study on PRF’s Web site.

Bishop and Quinn, both now in their early 20s, knew each other from their high school days. Bishop, a Verona native, graduated from Montclair Kimberley Academy and now teaches sixth grade and coaches volleyball there. Quinn grew up in Upper Montclair and graduated from Lacordaire. She is now in medical school at Seton Hall. But amazingly, they came to their decision to help Zoey quite separately. Bishop had met the toddler through family friends John and Donna Bruno. ” I met the Pennys down the shore and fell in love with Zoey,” she says. Quinn had long been interested in conditions like progeria, and when she saw a television news piece on Zoey, she contacted the Progeria Research Foundation who put her in touch with John Marozzi, Zoey’s grandfather and Team Zoey organizer. But she discovered that she, too, had friends who were friends of the Pennys. ” There were so many other weird coincidences that it just seemed like it was meant to be,” says Quinn.

Coincidence or not, Bishop and Quinn are intensely grateful for the outpouring of support for the fund raiser. Some of the businesses that they approached only to put event posters in store windows, like Frank Anthony’s and Harbodyz Fitness, wound up creating race teams. The race timer is donating his services, as are several sponsors.

“These people who have all agreed to come and to help are doing it for Zoey, not for us,” says Bishop. “The amount of geneorsity that have people have shown is incredible.”

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Registration for the Team Zoey  “Miles For Miracles” run/walk opens at 8:30 a.m. Saturday in Verona Park. There will be a 5k road race and a 2-mile fun run. Entry fees are $20 for runners, $15 for walkers and there’s a $50 family special. If you raise $100 in pledges, entry is free. For more information, see the Team Zoey Web site.

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Virginia Citrano
Virginia Citranohttps://myveronanj.com
Virginia Citrano grew up in Verona. She moved away to write and edit for The Wall Street Journal’s European edition, Institutional Investor, Crain’s New York Business and Forbes.com. Since returning to Verona, she has volunteered for school, civic and religious groups, served nine years on the Verona Environmental Commission and is now part of Sustainable Verona. She co-founded MyVeronaNJ in 2009. You can reach Virginia at [email protected]

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