For the past 37 years, people from all over the country — and, it seems, from beyond our borders as well — have been participating in the Rubin Run, a fundraiser for special needs programming at the Kaplen JCC on the Palisades in Tenafly that draws more than 1,500 runners.
While its many participants all have their own reasons to run — whether for exercise, a commitment to special needs programming, or just the need to do something different — runner Kimmy Chedel, who lives in Montreal, has perhaps the most compelling reason of all.
Ms. Kimmy Chedel met Frank Doyle on an evening cruise of New York Harbor for college alumni from both his school, Bowdoin College in Maine, and hers, Middlebury College in Vermont. His name tag fell off and stuck to her shoe.
“I said, ‘Who is Frank Doyle?’ He came over when he heard his name. It was love at first sight.”
The couple married and moved to Englewood in January 2000. “My best friend Anna Stein (now Merker) lived in Englewood and belonged to the JCC,” Ms. Chedel said. “Frank and I decided we wanted to raise children here.” The couple joined the JCC, and with several friends, they took part in the 2001 Rubin Run.
Now most of that group is gone. Frank and his friends were killed on September 11, 2001, at the World Trade Center.
“He worked at Keefe, Bruyette & Woods, KBW, a bank boutique at 2 World Trade Center,” Ms. Chedel, who also worked in finance, said. “He worked there for 16 years as head of the equity desk. It’s funny. We were both in the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center.”
Ms. Chedel, left with two children — a daughter, Zoe, then 2, and a son, Garrett, 1 — moved back to Canada, where she was born. Today, Zoe, 19, is a student at Elon University in North Carolina, and Garrett, 18 has just been accepted there. It was a tough time, she said, although partially eased by the help of close friends. “We were a young couple with babies,” she said. “He was 39.”
The run, she said, is a way to honor Frank “and gather everyone who loved him around his children. They’re surrounded by people who cared about their dad.”
Ms. Chedel has come back to Tenafly to participate in 18 runs. Last year, she gathered a crew of 45 friends and family members, all wearing their distinctive “Team Frank” tee-shirts. This year, there will be 20. “My daughter is flying up,” she said. “Friends from Maine and Boston are coming. People are coming from across Canada and New England.”
Other friends from around the New York metropolitan area come out the day of the race to cheer the runners on. She is especially pleased that this year the race will include an 8K trail run, “which will make it more interesting for people like my son. It’s a good event to add.”
Frank, she said, “was a tremendous athlete. He and Neal Merker” — a close friend and active member of the JCC — “would run at night on the hills of Englewood. A lawyer and a guy from Wall Street.
“After he died, I decided we had to do events to honor him. He would have wanted us to be together and stay active and healthy.”
The weekend, she said, has become somewhat ritualized. “Every Thursday of race week, people fly in and stop at Lake George, at the same diner. Then we shop at Woodbury Commons. We stay in the Clinton Inn, and then we all go to New York. We always spend several hours at the World Trade Center Museum.
“Then we go to Carmines on the upper west side for a carb dinner and then to Ben and Jerry’s. When we wake up at the Clinton Inn, we order a big picnic lunch for after the race.”
Ms. Chedel said while she has participated in a local triathlon for the past 16 years “and recently hiked up our biggest mountain,” this year she and several from her group will walk, rather than run, in Tenafly.
Several years ago, Ms. Chedel, who said the family gets together to do other activities as well — some have climbed Kilimanjaro and done several Iron Man events — took her children to Africa. “I worked in emerging banks for Chase so I traveled there frequently,” she said. “I decided to bring the kids to see the animals.” On that trip, she decided to create the non-profit Team Frank Africa, which will build schools there, she hopes at the rate of one a year. She already has held a fundraiser for her first project, a school in South Africa.
“It’s so nice when we come” to the JCC, she said. “They hug all of us and thank us for coming. They take pictures. Now the children are bringing all their friends. Last year there were 12 teens from Canada.”
Participating in the Rubin Run, Ms. Chedel said, is one way to remember Frank each year. In a perfect trifecta, it unites family, it encourages the people he loved to be active, and it marks Mother’s Day. “The kids are grown, the cousins are grown, but we use this as a kind of annual family reunion,” Ms. Chedel said.
Rochelle Lazarus, the JCC’s public relations director, said “The Rubin Run, now in its 37th year, has a three-pronged significance. The first is the fact that it is held on Mother’s Day as a celebration of family togetherness, where parents and other adult role models can set an example for healthy lifestyles for children. All participating moms receive a rose as they cross the finish line and there are all kinds of outdoor activities for kids, as well as light bites and beverages, and free babysitting and DJ entertainment.
“Second, it allows people to set personal fitness goals for themselves and their families. To prepare people for the race, the fitness staff at the JCC provides extensive training options. And last, it allows people to make a difference in their community, as proceeds from the event support social services, life skills classes, and vocational training for people with special needs. The goal each year is to help this special population live more productive, meaningful lives and this is a great community motivator. Many people commit to this run in particular because it fulfills an important personal and JCC mission at the same time.”
Ms. Lazarus pointed out that the run is named for the late Leonard Rubin, a past president and founder of the JCC, who established this community-wide athletic event to encourage and promote healthy living.
Who: The Kaplen JCC on the Palisades
What: Will sponsor its annual Rubin Run, featuring an 8K run, 10K run, and 5K run/walk
When: On May 13, from 7:30 a.m. to 12 p.m.
Where: Kaplen JCC on the Palisades, 411 East Clinton Ave., Tenafly
For information: Go to http://www.jccotp.org/rubinrun.
How much: Fees range from $30 to $45; register at the JCC early that day. There is more detailed information online.