Sunday's Big House Big Heart fundraiser benefits medical research, local charities
This Sunday, more than 10,000 runners and walkers are expected to fill the streets of Ann Arbor for the third annual Big House Big Heart fundraiser.
And they’ll be helping researchers like Dr. Eva Feldman, a University of Michigan - Russell DeJong professor of neurology, work to find a cure for Lou Gehrig’s disease, also known as ALS.
The event raises money for non-profit organizations, especially for medical research. And for Feldman, the fundraiser has made all the difference in her research of the disease.
Funds from the last two years have allowed her to test new drugs on zebra mussels that could slow the onset of the disease. This year, Feldman hopes the event will raise another $100,000 for her research.
“I know that it’s a very ambitious goal, but if we had those monies, it would allow us to double our efforts in terms of screening new drugs in our animal model of ALS,” she said. “We’re hoping to raise enough money to screen all 1,040 drugs to see if any of those might be beneficial in slowing the progression of the disease.”
Event organizer Andrea Highfield expects this year’s race to be the biggest ever.
“We’ve got non-profits, churches, businesses, schools, the university and the hospital coming together to make our community better and doing it in such a unique way,” she said.
The race starts Sunday morning at Michigan Stadium, where participants choose to race in a 10K, 5K or one-mile course through U-M’s campus and surrounding areas, before returning to the Big House and finishing at the 50-yard-line.
“It’s something that everybody wants to do,” Highfield said.
Highfield’s husband, Mike, started the race three years ago after his law partner, Phil Bowen, was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease.
Though Bowen passed away shortly before the race began, Andrea Highfield said the event raised $175,000 for the cause with about 5,000 participants.
Three years later, the number of racers is expected to double, and Highfield said she hopes to raise a half million dollars.
“With all these cuts, (non-profit organizations) just aren’t getting the funding like they have in the past,” she said. “They can’t afford to put on their own event, so we’re putting on a fundraising event for them.”
Some of the biggest recipients of the race are programs at the U-M Medical School, including the Cardiovascular Center, the C.S. Mott Children’s and Women’s Hospital, and the Program for Neurology Research and Discovery. Each organization receives a portion of the participants’ race entry fees. The remaining funds raised go to the non-profit of each runner or team’s choice.
Those who wish to register for the 10K or 5K race can do so for $36 ahead of time or $39 the weekend of the race. The cost is $18 to participate in the one-mile walk, or $23 on race weekend. For more information visit www.bighousebigheart.com.
Erica Hobbs is a freelance reporter for AnnArbor.com.