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Race raises funds for cure to brain cancer

Runners take to the course in Ocean Bay

Runners take to the course in Ocean Bay Park to raise funds for brain tumor research by participating in the Rose DiGangi 5K run. (Aug. 12, 2012) Credit: Jack McCoy

For Anthony and John DiGangi, summers used to mean idyllic afternoons exploring Fire Island with their two other brothers, sister and mother, Rose, a lover of the island's scenery.

When Rose was diagnosed with glioblastoma in 2006, the two brothers -- both recreational runners -- decided to support brain tumor research by organizing an annual event, one eventgoers say is marked by the sort of hospitality Rose would have approved.

"It's how Mrs. D would have wanted it," John's wife, Amy DiGangi, 40, of Manhattan, said of her mother-in-law, who died in 2007. "She always wanted to be the best hostess possible."

In the past six years, the brothers have raised a total of about $300,000 for the American Brain Tumor Association through their annual 5-kilometer -- or 3.1-mile -- race through Seaview, Ocean Bay Park and Ocean Beach.

Roughly 461 people ran Sunday's race, 178 more than last year's Run for Rose, which John said was dampened by 7 inches of rain.

Fire Island restrictions on motor vehicles make organizing a large event more challenging, said Anthony DiGangi. "We have to use golf carts and wagons to transport everything," he said.

But the close-knit island is what makes the race work, said his brother. "We just couldn't do this if it wasn't for the support of this community," said John DiGangi, 40, during a post-race celebration at the Schooner Inn, where he has been a bartender for 18 years.

Anthony, 33, agreed, noting that the food had been donated, much of it by local stores. As he explained that, a passing well-wisher hugged Anthony, congratulating him on the event.

As she walked away, John said, "It's just like that, people . . . coming up to me to show their support."

Ellie Mal, a Fire Island resident who volunteered at the post-race event, agreed. "We support them simply because we're a community that supports our community," she said.

The brothers said word has spread about the event, and people from across the tri-state area who have been personally affected by brain cancer have formed teams to raise funds.

For runner Justin Andrich, 27, of Bay Shore, the event was also personal. Andrich was part of a 71-person team from Declan Quinn's restaurant in Bay Shore.

"My mom was diagnosed with a brain tumor on March 22 this year," Andrich said. "I'm not a runner, but anything I can do to support brain cancer research, I will do."

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