Dr. Jose Tongol, Albany oncologist and president of Albany Marathon Inc., prepares to present a check to Willson Hospice House on Tuesday. The $20,000 check was generated by proceeds from the Albany Marathon and Half Marathon event in early March. (Staff Photo: Jennifer Parks)
ALBANY — A check of $20,000 was presented to Willson Hospice House on Tuesday from proceeds from the eighth Albany Marathon and Half Marathon that took place nearly six months ago.
The ceremonial check was presented at a news conference at the hospice house, home to Albany Community Hospice, by officials from Albany Marathon Inc., MARS Chocolate North America, Phoebe Foundation and Albany Community Hospice.
“Eight years ago, it was just a plan — a plan that took a long time to get together,” said Barry Cohen, chairman of Albany Marathon Inc. “It is one of the top Boston (Marathon) qualifiers, which is key to drawing participants to a marathon.”
This year’s event welcomed 1,472 registrants from 41 states and several countries including Austria, Canada and Venezuela on March 1. Of those who finished, 18.9 percent qualified for the Boston Marathon, officials said Tuesday.
For the 2015 race, set for March 7, the hope is to reach 2,000 runners — which officials say the event is already trending toward.
“With continued support (from area sponsors), we have the goal of making the Albany Marathon the best small town marathon in America,” Cohen said.
At the news conference, Cohen quipped that runners participate not just for the flat course but also for the Marathon Energy bars — a product that MARS has been producing since three years before the race first got started.
Mack Phillips, MARS Albany plant manager, praised the event as one that brings hundreds of visitors to the city.
“It is events like this led by the fantastic people of Southwest Georgia that make this a great place to live,” he said.
Jennifer Stephens, regional executive director of hospice services for Albany Community Hospice, spoke of a few cases in which donated funds have gone to benefit hospice patients — such as fulfilling a patient’s dream of graduating from high school with complete cap and gown, another patient who was in need of clothes and another who needed help after his home burned down.
“Thank you, thank you, for the contributions you make,” she said. “These are just three out of the (long list) of stories.
“This event affects not just those with healthy, active lifestyles, but those with debilitating (health conditions).”
Lauren Ray, executive director of the Phoebe Foundation, said the event supports end-of-life care as well as bereavement services to family members — while also giving national and international fame to the Albany area.
“This will pay forward for a long, long time — and we appreciate it,” she said.
The check was presented by Dr. Jose Tongol, Albany oncologist and president of Albany Marathon Inc.
Rashelle Beasley, Albany Convention and Visitors Bureau director and Albany Marathon race director, secretary/treasurer, said officials are in the midst of planning the 10th anniversary event for 2016 — and that the weekend as a whole generates an economic impact of $1 million.
She also noted that the race has multiple pace groups, one of whom is named for the late Sara Underdown — an official who was instrumental in making the marathon a reality prior to her death in 2009 from non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.
“While she is not with us, she is running with us in spirit,” Beasley said.
Registration is open for the 2015 race at www.active.com and www.albanymarathon.com.