To kick off the holiday season, the John Theissen Children's Foundation (JTCF) is playing host to a halloween-themed Freaky 5K Run this Sunday behind the charity's Fun Center in Wantagh.
JTCF founder John Theissen was diagnosed with a brain tumor in his final year at MacArthur High School in 1988. Unsure of what the future held, Theissen was admitted to the hospital two months later to undergo a major procedure that ultimately saved his life.
During his hospital stay, Theissen was greatly impacted by the cheerful spirit of a seven year old patient suffering from a similar diagnosis. As he grew healthier, Theissen was inspired to give to children less fortunate.
The JTCF started in 1991 with a toy drive at his mother's Wantagh home and has evolved into a renowned organization dedicated to sick and underprivileged children on Long Island, with an annual back-to-school drive, holiday toy drive and various fundraising efforts throughout the year.
"It's very important to help these children in need year round," said Theissen, a Seaford resident whose JTCF office is located on 1881 Wantagh Ave.. "So many kids are faced with life threatening illnesses, and on the other side, the financial difficulties facing the families keep getting worse. We really do our best to help in all ways possible."
"We are much more than just toys," he added. "That seems to be what people think we are about. We help these kids in any way. I am grateful for the support we've received over the last 21 years."
Proceeds from Sunday's event will benefit various areas of the foundation, including children's parties at the fun center, wish granting and new toys for those spending the holidays in the hospital.
Runners and walkers can register the day of before 8 a.m. for a fee of $25. Participants who pledge $250 or more are not required to pay an entry fee. Awards will given out to the top three runners as well as most creative and scariest Halloween costumes. The race is scheduled to begin at 8:30 a.m.
"Our goal is to raise a few thousand dollars while having a great event," Theissen said. "A few thousand dollars goes far with the foundation so I would be very happy."
Theissen is currently looking for additional volunteers to help run Sunday's event. For more information e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.