BABYLON VILLAGE - Mark Lessing, owner of the Post Office Cafe in Babylon Village, crossed the finish line of his restaurant’s annual 5K run sweaty, tired and with reason to celebrate. It was the 23rd successful year for the community event, but more importantly, it was also his daughter Casey’s 23rd birthday -- a triumph for the woman who has been battling a degenerative disease since she was diagnosed in 1996.
The Post Office Cafe has donated proceeds from the race to the National MPS Society every year since 2008 as a way to honor Casey, as well as the life of Lessing’s older son, Mark, who lost his battle with mucopolysaccharidosis, a progressive degenerative disorder, in 2010 at the age of 20.
“A bunch of the staff members brought the idea for the fundraiser to me, and I gave into the idea,” Lessing said. “We tried it that year and the community, everyone, really rallied behind it.”
MPS, which is a genetic condition, is caused by an enzyme deficiency, with symptoms becoming apparent at a young age. While therapies exist, life expectancy is generally only into the teenage years.
“It’s amazing that she [Casey] has come this far,” Lessing said.
Frank Trainor, 53, of Rocky Point, began participating in the run with his wife Colleen three years ago in honor of his son Patrick, who lost his battle with MPS in 2001. Since then, Trainor has rallied friends, co-workers and family to come with him, expanding his 5K team from two to more than 55 members, all clad in white shirts with Patrick’s name written in purple on the back.
“It’s so nice that we have this, it’s always a rewarding experience,” Trainor said. “We lost Patrick when he was only seven years old, but they were the best seven years of my life.”
Michael O’Brien, of East Northport, and his team came to the race to support the cause and help raise awareness for Joey’s Little Angels, a New Jersey-based nonprofit that also raises money for MPS research. The nonprofit was formed in honor of Joseph Angiolio, who passed away in 2010 at only 15 months.
“There aren’t a lot of events on Long Island that really focus on raising money for this type of cause,” O’Brien said. “So we’re here representing for Joey and Long Islanders the best that we can.”
The 3.1-mile race circled Babylon Village, starting and finishing at the Post Office Cafe on Main Street. Prizes were awarded to the top three male and female runners, as well as the top three runners in age groups ranging from 10 and under to 80 and above. A 1K Fun Run for children was also held a half hour before the start of the 5K.
Boyd Carrington, of Amityville, was first to cross the finish line, clocking in with a 16:34 run time and taking home the first-place prize: a year-long membership to Fitness Incentives gym in Babylon Village. Carrington was followed closely by Kevin Meehan, 33, of Brooklyn, at 16:38 and Matt Dunn, of Lindenhurst, at 18:04. Katie McGrath, of Oakdale, placed first among women, placing fifth overall with a time of 18:19.
After the race, participants were invited to relax in the parking lot behind the Post Office Cafe, enjoying music, snacks and free beer. The race also coincided with Babylon Village’s annual Fall Festival, which began shortly after the race down Deer Park Avenue.
Lessing said that the Post Office Cafe plans the race in conjunction with the festival because it helps bring new people into the area and helps promote local business.
“It’s really good for the town,” Lessing said. “You want to do something that’s good for everybody.”