Goss: ‘Run for Izzo’ is taking off
November 10, 2012 3:12PM
Joliet Catholic teachers Mark Clarke (left), Mindy Izzo and Jason Midlock participated in the recent Marine Corps Marathon/10K in Washington, D.C. as members of Run for Izzo. | Supplied photo
Updated: January 10, 2013 1:46AM
Before our good friend Gene Seymour, the former Chicago sports columnist for Copley News Service, died from a heart aneurysm 16 years ago, I knew little about Marfan Syndrome.
I learned then that Gene had been diagnosed with it and that it generally affects those who are tall with long limbs and long fingers.
Then in October 2010, Joliet Catholic basketball coach Jeremy Izzo, only 29 years old, died from a heart condition related to Marfan Syndrome.
Afterward, Izzo’s widow Mindy began teaching at Joliet Catholic, taking over her late husband’s U.S. history and world history classes.
She also co-coaches boys and girls cross country at the school with Mark Clarke, a local running guru.
Mindy wanted to do something to keep Jeremy’s memory alive and raise awareness of Marfan Syndrome. So with the help of friends, she started “Run For Izzo.”
The group includes teams and individuals who participate in races and other events in various locations throughout the year to raise funds for the National Marfan Foundation in Jeremy’s memory.
Earlier this year, the national foundation contacted Mindy about participating in the Marine Corps Marathon/10K on Oct. 28 in Washington, D.C.
“We have runners in our history department at JCA, and within two days, we had three signed up,” Izzo said. “Jason Midlock and Mark Clarke did the marathon, and I did the 10K. We had seven total from the Joliet area in our group out there.
“Everybody ran well. The biggest heartbreak is that Jason missed qualifying for the Boston Marathon by two seconds, by a step or two.”
Izzo said this was the first time the National Marfan Foundation was a partner in the Washington Marathon, “and they are using Run for Izzo as a model. That’s nice. We’re the model for something that has gone national.”
Each time a member of Run for Izzo participates in a race, he or she asks for sponsors. Runners are welcome to participate in races on their own, but there are several team races throughout the year where the plan is to bring as large a group as possible.
At Joliet Catholic, Izzo estimated 15 members of the girls and boys cross country teams are involved with Run for Izzo, along with “probably 20 other kids in our school and another 10 teachers. There are at least 40 people at JCA in it.”
In total, the grassroots group has grown to more than 150 members in 10 states.
“We have raised more than $9,000 for the national foundation,” Izzo noted. The Joliet contingent raised more than $5,500 in the Marine Corps Marathon.
Izzo said she and Jeremy had discussed what they could do to raise awareness of Marfan Syndrome.
“We talked about the national foundation, about doing charity running,” she said. “We were all excited about it, but then things got busy.
“When he passed away, I said we would do it in memory of Jeremy, do something for a good cause. We want to avoid others finding out about it when it’s too late.”
When Izzo runs a race wearing her Run for Izzo T-shirt, she said people will ask what Run for Izzo is and what Marfan’s is.
“When I tell them, they give me business cards or little thank you notes and they join the organization that way,” she said. “I ran a 5K in Raleigh (N.C.) and wore my shirt, or I might go to a turkey trot in New Mexico and wear it. We could be running on Lake Shore Drive and people see our people wearing the T-shirt and they join us.
“One of my best friends found out her husband has Marfan’s because of Run for Izzo. Maybe if we hadn’t started the organization, well, you never know.
“Just to be able to raise money for the foundation is a good thing. It’s a good motivator because running can get hard. It’s a small step, but we’ll take it one step at a time.”
Jeremy Izzo, who became Joliet Catholic’s coach in 2009, was a former graduate assistant for Bruce Weber at Illinois. Weber now is the head coach at Kansas State, and some of his staff also have Illini ties. When the Wildcats plays in the NIT Tipoff tournament over Thanksgiving at Madison Square Garden, Mindy may be there.
“Jeremy used to work for the U of I basketball team and a lot of those guys he was with are at Kansas State now,” she said. “We may meet up with them and watch the games. It would be a neat experience.”
It also could offer another opportunity to spread the word about Run for Izzo.
One step at a time.
To learn more about Run for Izzo, visit www.firstgiving.com/