This November Sag Harbor-based chiropractor Dr. Stephen Petruccelli, owner of East End Sports Chiropractic, will race for cancer in the 2010 New York City Marathon. Dr. Petruccelli hopes to raise $7,500 for pediatric cancer research at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in honor of his mother, who died of breast cancer. With only a couple of months to go and a mere $2,500 short of his fundraising goal, Dr. Petruccelli talks to the Express about the challenges of fundraising in a down economy, mentally training for a marathon and why he chooses to donate to pediatric cancer research.
Last week you held a “rehab-a-thon” fundraiser in Sag Harbor for pediatric cancer research at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center with the help of physical therapist Sinead Fitzgibbon. What did you both do at this fundraising drive and how much money did you raise?
Sinead was nice enough to offer to do this with me. Basically Sinead called me to see if I would be interested in this. Instead of paying a co-pay or through insurance, people made whatever donations they could. We did evaluations of some new injuries. I had a couple of patients come down. We did some evaluations for people who were concerned [about an injury] and might not normally come and see someone. And they donated whatever they wanted. We raised $725 in two hours. Considering that we put together the event in a week, that wasn’t too bad.
You are participating in the New York City Marathon this year and raising money for Fred’s Team, which benefits Sloan-Kettering. Is this your first time competing?
It is my third New York City Marathon. It’s on November 7 and it’s 26.2 miles. This is the second time I am running for Fred’s Team. Fred’s Team is one of the oldest charities for the New York City Marathon. It was founded in 1995 and has raised $38 million. With the New York City Marathon all the money is for Sloan-Kettering, but they do other events like the Chicago Marathon.
Why did you become involved with Fred’s Team?
My mom passed away in 1998 from breast cancer. In 2006 I ran my first marathon and I didn’t raise money for it. I entered the lottery, they take 40,000 runners but I think well over 150,000 apply. The second year the only way to secure my entrance was to run for a charity and I did that to honor my mother. I contacted all my patients and family members and raised $6,000 in two months in 2007, which was pretty good. And this year I am trying to raise $7,500. I am at about $5,000.
Have you done other fundraising events for this race?
I started at the end of May. I have been slow to let people know but now I am starting to lean on people a little harder. It has mostly been with one event, some emails and the use of Facebook on a regular basis to raise $5,000.
I am not sure how much organized fundraising I am going to be able to do. Anybody out there who wants to volunteer to help that would be much appreciated.
Three years ago when I did this the economy was in better shape and it was easier to raise money. This year I have gone with a low-key approach. I know everyone is hurting for money. A lot of businesses had to play catch up this year to make up for last summer. I have been asking people to donate $5 or $10. If you get a thousand people to donate $5 that is great. I think people get intimidated by getting asked for donations all the time. You don’t have to donate much. All donations are tax deductible.
Were you able to choose where your donation monies will go?
In the past, it all went towards to The Aubrey Fund for Pediatric Cancer Research. This year they opened it up for specific areas of research. I chose pediatric cancer. I can’t think of anything more sad or difficult for a family to deal with than a sick child. Once you have kids of your own you kind of see that more clearly … If you have cancer [on the East End] Sloan-Kettering is where you want to go.
Would you like to do more fundraising through participating in other marathons?
I’d really like to do Chicago, Boston and San Diego. Chicago is flatter. Boston is hillier and more difficult to get into. Boston is one of the most popular marathons. In New York the bridges are all hills. You cross over four or five bridges.
What has your time been in the past two races?
The first year I did 4:35 and the second year I did 4:24. This year I want to do 3:45. I should be able to get it assuming I don’t get injured. The first year I got injured during training. Most people who train for their first marathon get injured at least once.
The training isn’t just physical. There is a mental component, right?
You have to push through a lot of things. Around mile 16 I don’t feel like running anymore, but I make up my mind to keep running. I tell my patients, “When you want to stop you have to keep going.” So you take one more step and you keep moving. Anyone can do the training by running a little bit more each week, but mentally you have to look past what your body is feeling and telling you. The first year I was injured and the last five miles were a battle.