Brianne Schmidt and community at Pepperjam continue race in memory of Donn Schmidt
WILKES-BARRE — Since losing her father to ALS in 2009, Brianne Schmidt was adamant about paying tribute to her dad, Donn, and giving back to the organization that supported her family during his battle, but it was the people around her at Pepperjam Performance Marketing who surprised her by helping her achieve that goal.
The second Donn’s Dash 5K run for ALS kicks off at 8:30 a.m., June 25, at the intersection of River and Market streets. The trek, which takes runners down River Street, makes a loop of River Side Drive and finishes on South Main Street, raises money for the ALS Association Greater Philadelphia Chapter.
Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis or “Lou Gehrig’s Disease” is a neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal chord. Donn Schmidt was a college football player, a Philadelphia Eagles season ticket holder and active in the lives of his children before ALS afflicted his ability to walk, talk and breathe.
“The sad part is your brain is completely with it,” Brianne said. “Knowing my dad was thinking and feeling and none of the things in his head were changing but he was no longer able to move was so heartbreaking.”
Brianne chose the ALS Association Greater Philadelphia Chapter as the run’s beneficiary because of a technology they provided her father that allowed him to use a cursor to write and communicate after his speech failed.
“Being able to communicate with him was a blessing and something I’ll always cherish,” Brianne said. “I want to make sure anyone in Northeastern Pennsylvania who is suffering from ALS has the support and the love we received from the ALS Association.”
Brianne, a Chalfont native, moved to Wilkes-Barre to attend King’s College and stayed after she got a job at Pepperjam. Coming from a runner’s family — her parents ran the Philadelphia Marathon — the Lake Harmony resident hinted to co-workers she wanted to hold a benefit run to honor her father.
During a work trip to New York City, several of Schmidt’s co-workers began planning an event without her knowing.
Senior manager at Pepperjam, Tim Seigfried said he and two others conceived of the race right around the time the ice bucket challenge was hitting its fever pitch.
“We were at this networking event, and it came up that (the ice bucket challenge) was about ALS awareness,” Seigfried said. “Someone mentioned Brianne’s father passed away from it, and we had a light bulb go off in our heads simultaneously.”
Over the course of a few months, the team coordinated with the city of Wilkes-Barre, notified police, secured a route, worked with a graphic designer and touched base with Brianne’s family to find the right date.
“My co-workers decided to have a meeting with me,” Brianne said. “We got in there, and they put a piece of paper — it was a map — and a logo in front of me. It said Donn’s Dash, and instantly I started to cry.”
Last year’s event drew around 200 runners and raised more than $15,000 for the association, an amount that well surpassed the group’s goal of $11,000.
Brianne said they are hoping for even more support from the community for an even more successful event. As the run progresses, Brianne pulls motivation from her father to do better.
“Throughout his entire battle with ALS, he always kept a smile,” she said. “I like to say I get some of my determination and drive from him. No matter what the circumstance, he always tried to fight the good fight.”
Reach Matt Mattei at 570-991-6651 or Twitter @TLArts
IF YOU GO:
What: Donn’s Dash 5K Run for ALS
Where: Race begins at the intersection of Market and River street in Wilkes-Barre
When: 8:30 a.m. June 25
More info: The entry fee is $25 before June 18 and $30 on race day. Checks can be made payable to Donn’s Dash and mailed to P.O. Box 652 Wilkes-Barre, Pa., 18701. A downloadable PDF for mail-in registration will soon be available at www.donnsdash.com.