The Second Annual Memorial Mark Vogel Charity Run in Secaucus on June 2 raised close to $9,000 for the Little People of America (LPA). The charity run honored the memory of former Secaucus volunteer firefighter Mark Vogel, New Jersey’s smallest firefighter, who passed away 11 years ago on June 16.
At the event, organizer Fred Vogel, Mark’s brother, announced that Assemblyman Vincent Prieto sponsored a joint resolution to declare October National Dwarfism Awareness Month. Prieto’s chief of staff expected the bill to pass the assembly this past Thursday. Dwarfism means short stature resulting from a genetic or medical condition.
“It is a good cause.” – Rachel Kleiman
Danielle Morganti, president of the LPA Garden State Chapter, was moved to tears by the announcement. Last year, Vogel’s fundraising efforts helped restore some of the chapter’s programs.
Riding for a cause
“It was amazing,” said Morganti shortly after the motorcycle run, which had close to 90 riders. Morganti’s teenage son, who has the most common form of dwarfism, attended the event along with many other members of LPA.
The organization provides support to people of short stature and their families. They also help families who have just had their son or daughter diagnosed with dwarfism. Their programs provide social interaction, medical support, education, scholarships and grants.
Morganti and her son rode in a fire truck behind the motorcycle riders. The riders went on a 45-mile ride from Secaucus, up the Palisades Interstate Parkway, with a brief stop at a park overlook for a prayer ceremony, and then returned via 9W.
Upon their return, hundreds gathered in Buchmuller Park for live music, a bike stunt show, pro-wrestling, food, and family-friendly activities.
Outpouring of support
“I’m thankful for the turnout,” said Vogel. He said he had much gratitude for the crew of people who helped him organize the event, including his daughters. Vogel hoped the event would raise awareness about dwarfism and combat the stereotypes and the stigma that little people face.
“I am here in support because it is a good cause,” said Rachel Kleiman from New York City. She is a member of LPA.
“I met my husband through the organization,” said event volunteer Louise Sciacca from Totowa. She has been an LPA member 50 years. “They helped me get familiar with doctors that can treat us.”
Remembering a good guy
“Just a good guy,” said Tony Cospito about Mark Vogel. Cospito has served as a volunteer firefighter from Moonachie for 32 years.
Although Mark Vogel was born with a form of dwarfism called achondroplasia, he didn’t let his height stop him from serving as a volunteer firefighter for the Secaucus and Moonachie fire departments and also as a member of the Moonachie EMT squad. He was named New Jersey’s Public Servant of the Year in 2000 by the Bergen County PAL.
“He would do anything for you,” Cospito said. “He was so happy.”
Adriana Rambay Fernández may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.