Jaime Kosinski

Posted on 08 May 2009

The founder of the MOM 5K on fighting brain cancer, new challenges and the man in the duck costume.

 

Could you tell us about your mother, how she passed away, and how you decided to start this race in her honor?

My mother never really liked to be talked about so I’ll keep this part brief. She was the mother of all mothers. She made our Halloween costumes, took us all around the world, made us do our homework at the kitchen table and of course gave us curfews. A simple woman, never owning anything designer, possessed a quick witted, sarcastic sense of humor that I miss everyday. She was a pistol. Her family and friends were her life. She died of a high-grade brain tumor on May 28, 2002 after a two-and-a-half year illness. The race each year is on Mother’s Day Weekend as I thought it was a fitting time to pay tribute to her. Robert “Bob-O” Conneely though, whom you did this interview with last year, was the true founder of Mind Over Matter and catalyst for this race. Sadly, we lost him this past January after succumbing to his twenty-five year battle with brain cancer. Our t-shirts this year have Bob-O’s original running brain design and we will all be wearing grey Bob-O Bands to remember him. His children will also be here running and giving out the awards. It is our first event since Bob-O’s passing. It will be tough for me. I have been thinking about him a lot this week. 

 

What does this race signify for you and your family?

When you watch someone you love lose their life to such a sad, horrible disease it is one of the toughest things one could ever endure. As a family, we had to rebuild despite our loss. So, instead of putting our heads down on the bench, we laced up our sneakers and got back on court for a new season. Every year this race for us signifies that new season, a new challenge, a growing movement, which has enabled us to turn a tragic situation into something positive we can be proud of.  

 

What do you think your mom would say about how far the race has come over the last six years?

Wow six years. My mother has been gone seven now. My mom was actually still alive for the first Minds Over Matter’s event, the 2001 NYC Marathon. It’s funny to think that a little team of six runners in 2001 has grown into our own race! We started the Gwen L. Kosinski Foundation — benefiting brain tumor research — the day after my mother passed. All of the funds from her funeral went into starting the Foundation. I think we raised about $25,000 at her services. My mother was a very private person. I know that she would be so proud of all that the GLK Foundation has accomplished over the past seven years, but if she knew the foundation was in her name or that her name was labeled across a banner at the end of Main Street, I’d probably be grounded for life. She always hated being the center of attention. GLK and Minds Over Matter isn’t just about my mom anymore though, it’s about raising awareness for all brain tumor patients and their families. It can happen to anyone. In fact, American Idol winner David Cook just lost his 37-year-old brother to a brain tumor this past week. I am a huge American Idol fan and I hope to try and contact him over the next year.    

 

How much money have you raised so far for brain tumor research?

I believe this year we reached our $400,000 mark. I think though that just the awareness we are raising about brain tumors and offering people an outlet for help, referrals and guidance is just as important. Like I said, this race has become a movement. It’s fantastic to see.  

 

How is that money going to be used?

We actually just finished up a $150,000 grant to Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Institute in NYC that targets how to combat the reoccurrence of high-grade brain tumors, which is GLK’s focus. Brain tumors can often be manageable upon first occurrence, but it’s when they come back, usually at a higher grade when the prognosis suffers more gravely. Currently, our summer project is to research a new grant to fund in the same area of study. We also give four scholarships each year to deserving students at Pierson and Pace University where my mother received her nursing degree. We also set aside money for caregivers. Cancer is a family disease. 

 

What is the best part of race day?

There are so many parts of the day that I love. I thoroughly enjoy waking my family up by way of bullhorn at 4:30 a.m. to rise and shine and start packing up the trucks. I love the excitement over the man to beat, the strawberries, Andy Neidnig. My friends with their kids out strolling along, watching my brother get engaged last year. The Sag Harbor youth learning to give back and pay it forward! I think overall though, the best part of the event for me is seeing the incomprehensible generosity of all the people in this special community who hardly ever get mentioned, come out year after year to make this event happen. The people of Sag Harbor are a rare breed — one in a million. I can remember when my mom was sick we hardly cooked dinner for over two years. The community took care of us and now they participate not just to honor my mom, but to honor all those who fight this horrific disease.  

 

Can anyone be included in the event? I know there was some mention of those with strollers not being allowed to participate.

Due to the growing success and size of the race, now crossing over the 500 runners mark, we have some new rules in place this year for safety and liability purposes. Anyone can run or walk. There is also a wheelchair division. A child under 18 years-old though must have a signed consent (at the bottom of our registration form) from a parent or legal guardian. Strollers are also allowed to participate in the event this year for free on an unofficial basis. Strollers will not be part of the “official race” and will not be timed or wear numbers. Strollers will line up at the back of the pack and are required to walk only. Pre-Registration online closes on Thursday night at 5 p.m. www.glkfoundation.org. There will be no pre-registration this year at Stella Maris on Friday, and day of race registration will be Saturday from 7:00-8:00am. The race starts at 8:30 a.m. 

 

Can you tell us who the person is in costume, the gorilla, the duck and the dog? What is he going to be this year, any hints?

Oh gosh, I have no idea what our “man to beat” – a.k.a. local celebrity Eric Bramoff – will be this year. I actually never know – I never want to know. I enjoy finding out when all of you do. It’s probably my favorite part of the race when Eric arrives. I’m waiting for him one year to arrive in a space shuttle. Interestingly, the “man to beat” was only supposed to be a one time gig our first year in order to generate publicity to get as many people running the race as possible. An anonymous donor that first year offered to give the GLK Foundation $10,000 if we hired a man in costume to pretend to be the “man to beat” and allow all the runners to beat him. Eric stood there a foot before the finish line until everyone passed – even 85+ year old Andy Neidnig. Now, seven years later the “man to beat” has become an iconic tradition at the MOM 5K. He even has his own Facebook page and area on our website www.glkfoundation.org. Eric does a GREAT job. At this point, the event would not be the same without him. I actually received an email from him today commenting that the “man to beat” has become more than just a silly guy in a costume, but a symbol for bringing so many people together – a symbol for everyone to not be afraid to challenge their inner superhero. This year in particular will be very special for Eric. His wife’s 16-year-old cousin in Syracuse is currently battling brain cancer and Eric allowed her to pick the costume. Like everyone, I too have to wait just a few more days to find who or what the man to beat will be this year. Care to place a wager?   

 

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