In 1976, a group of runners training at Persechini Fitness in Newmarket launched a fundraiser for Easter Seals.
It was a 10-kilometre run that started at Joe Persechini’s fitness studio and headed down the hill into Bradford West Gwillimbury, ending at The Village Inn. The run raised about $1,900.
It was a small group that participated in that first Easter Seals event, said Dave Kerwin.
The Newmarket Ward 2 councillor was one of the original runners and still comes out to lend his support.
“That was the year I won it,” he laughed.
Over the years, the Easter Seals Run grew to become one of Easter Seals’ top fundraisers, supporting kids with physical disabilities.
At its peak, the run attracted thousands of participants, who marshalled at Upper Canada Mall for a 10-kilometre run or walk through the hills and roads surrounding Newmarket.
There was a strong Bradford connection, with many BWG elementary schools raising funds and sending teams to participate, complete with signs and banners.
Over the years, the number of participants has declined because of numerous other runs and fundraisers competing for attention, but with the continued support of title sponsor Upper Canada Mall and Joe Persechini, whose passion for Easter Seals has continued, the run remains York Region’s longest-running fundraiser.
It has raised more than $3 million in total for Easter Seals kids.
The 42nd annual Upper Canada Mall Easter Seals Run founded by Joe Persechini took place May 27 at Newmarket’s Riverwalk Commons. Hundreds of runners and walkers took part in the 10- amd five-kilometre courses or the one-kilometre childrens’ dash.
Joe Persechini once again was on-hand to congratulate and high-five participants as they crossed the finish line, joined this year by Kevin Collins, president and CEO of Easter Seals Ontario.
Collins was 12 at the time of the inaugural run and was Easter Seals’ ambassador, or “Timmy” at the event.
This year, he was joined by one of the group’s provincial ambassadors, Sydney Weaver, 17, who has a form of cerebral palsy and said he has been involved in Easter Seals “as long as I can remember.”
He is receiving therapy and attending accessible summer camp operated by Easter Seals.
“I’m looking forward to letting people know that kids with physical disabilities are just like other kids. Sometimes we just have to alter how we do things to accomplish our tasks,” he said.
There was live music, a pancake breakfast served by the Enbridge Community team, and medals for all who finished the course.
And there was a challenge from Joe Persechini, for next year: “Let’s make 43 the best year yet.”