Fifth Annual Join Hands 5K goes virtual

Bayonne mom honors her son Michael

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, many in-person events throughout 2020 have had to adapt.

Sharon Romano, a Bayonne resident, is a board member and volunteer for The Children’s Fund at Hackensack University Medical Center (HUMC). In an interview with the Bayonne Community News, Romano detailed how the hospital’s annual 5K has changed due to the pandemic.

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Each year, The Children’s Fund hosts its annual Join Hands 5K at the Saddle River County Park in Saddlebrook. The fifth annual race has gone entirely virtual.

Participants can participate from September 6 to 13 but must register online at tcfkidwalk.org.

The goal is to benefit children with cancer and blood disorders. For Romano, the event is a way to keep the memory of her son alive.

She lost her middle son, Michael, to cancer in 2005. Michael was battling neuroblastoma, cancer of the nerve cells.

Remembering Michael

Michael was diagnosed and initially treated for his cancer at HUMC, Romano said.

The hospital holds a place in her heart because Michael felt comfort at the facility because of the staff and The Children’s Fund. Romano said that HUMC impacted his life in a positive way. That influenced her decision to stay with the The Children’s Fund, even after Michael succumbed to the disease.

“For me, working with the Children’s Fund enabled me to help keep Michael’s spirit alive,” Romano said.

As an active member of the fund, Romano helps other families with children who are fighting cancer or blood disorders, just as the organization helped her, her family, and Michael during his illness.

Each year, funds raised by the 5K help families pay their mortgages and bills. Romano said this year, the fund has raised approximately $32,000. The organization cares for the children by celebrating birthdays,providing toys, uplifting them when they have bad days.

Romano said the when the first race was held, the family’s team dubbed themselves “The Grand Slammers,’”a nod to Michael’s love of baseball.

Since then, they’ve walked every year, usually alongside friends and neighbors, and sometimes friends of Michael.

“We join other teams and families with children who face the same struggle as Michael did,” Romano said.

While the race has gone virtual this year, Romano estimates a similar turnout to other years. Currently, 323 participants have signed up for the virtual 5K.

She said they have a great support system in Bayonne, as friends and family always come out to help.

For more information on the 5K and to register, go to tcfkidwalk.org. Everyone is welcome to participate, runners and walkers alike.

For updates on this and other stories, check www.hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Daniel Israel can be reached at disrael@hudsonreporter.com.

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