"Doing it for charity made me feel so much better about what I accomplished"

by Karen Price

The first time that Tony D’Abruzzo ran the DICK'S Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon, he ran like “a normal person,” he said, “a sane person.” 

That is to say that he wasn’t wearing a wedding dress for all 26.2 miles as he and his two friends, Vinh Ly and Brian Gerber, did in 2016 to raise money for Project R.U.N. through P3R’s Run for a Reason charity program.

If you were at the finish line or spectating along the route, you probably saw Tony, Vinh and Brian. It’s hard to miss three guys running past you in wedding dresses, after all, but you may not have realized they were using their shenanigans for good. Despite not thinking of themselves as fundraisers, the trio raised $2,525 to benefit children in underserved neighborhoods. 

Tony and Vinh stopped by our very first Charity Running School program back in October to share how they went from three guys running in costume for a laugh to three guys who are making a difference right here in Pittsburgh.

Vinh was the first of the three to run in costume when he decided in 2011 that his race day attire would be a business suit  in order to call attention to potential cuts in public transit. During a conversation with friends at a local bar, Vinh said that without the bus he’d have to run to work in his suit, and the idea was born. 

The next year, that Tony and Brian decided to join in on the fun after seeing the response Vinh got along the course, and over the next few years they ran as characters from Anchorman, Ghostbusters and Mario and Luigi. 

After 2015, they decided they wanted to take the idea a step further and raise money for charity so they contacted us for suggestions. We suggested Project R.U.N., which is part of our Kids of Steel program, and since the three were all city kids who met at Carrick, the cause resonated. 

The trio used mainly Facebook and Twitter in order to reach out to friends and family and direct them to their Crowdrise page to donate and to vote on their costumes (princesses and wedding dresses were neck-and-neck until the end). 

“I would have laughed it off seven years ago,” Vinh said. “Now I think, where will we be in another seven years?” Added Tony, “I did seven or eight marathons before last year and it was great, I accomplished a goal, but doing it for charity made me feel so much better about what I accomplished.”

Among the advice they had for new fundraisers was to not be afraid to ask people for money, and to know that any money you raise is better than nothing. 

Here are some more tips for people looking to take the leap into the Run for a Reason program from some of our other charity partners who were on hand for the Charity School:

The Cystic Fibrosis Foundation received $165,860 in donations from the Pittsburgh Marathon in 2016. This year, the Run to Cure CF team in Pittsburgh has a goal of $200,000. Hannah Camic, Brittany Sipe and Lindsay MacIntosh represented the Run to Cure CF team and said that if you ever need help, you only have to ask.

Fundraising for their organization gives runners access to group training runs and other events, personal support from coaches and mentors, race training plans and tips plus lots of ideas on how to raise money.

You can be as committed as you want and come to as many or as few training sessions as you want with no pressure, but many participants find the groups are a great way to stay motivated. They also have people running all different distances at different paces, so there’s something for everyone. 

Bethany and Mark Skosnik were with us representing Urban Impact, a spiritually-based community outreach organization located on the North Side. As with all of our charity partners, Urban Impact requires runners to commit to a minimum fundraising goal but both

Bethany and Mark said most people easily exceed that because they offer so much support along the way. It may seem intimidating at first, they said, but there are so many people willing to help and so many resources throughout the city to make fundraising easier that most people get into a groove in no time. 

We are proud to have raised more than $9 million since 2009 and our goal in 2017 is to hit $10 million, but we can’t do it without all our wonderful Run For a Reason participants.  

Join us and help us meet our goal of $10 million. 

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