Strong wind gusts on a brisk Mother's Day morning were not enough to dampen the bond that has formed between the West Islip community and Elizabeth T. McNamee and the McNamee family. Approximately 1,000 runners and walkers came out to participate in the Elizabeth T. McNamee Run on May 9, with proceeds going to the Elizabeth T. McNamee Memorial Fund.
In 1998, while in her last year of law school at New York University, Elizabeth McNamee died of a cardiac disease called hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM), which can cause sudden death to young people who are otherwise completely healthy.
At the time of her death, Elizabeth was primed for as bright a future as one can hope for. She was 25-years-old, a graduate of Harvard University and a law student at New York University.
Wanting to raise awareness of HCM, Maria McNamee, Elizabeth's mother, decided to start a run in her daughter's name that would raise money for education for public and healthcare professionals and provide support services to those affected by HCM and their families.
Each Mother's Day for the last 12 years, the community comes out to support the cause and to remember Elizabeth, whose star still shines bright in West Islip.
Approximately 950 runners and walkers participated in the 5K (3.1-mile) run with about 200 to 250 participating in the 1-mile fun run.
"I had everybody telling me Mother's Day is such a difficult day, but it has double meaning. Moms come with their families and daughters and sons come to participate in this event," said Maria McNamee. "It's a beautiful day for everyone. She [Elizabeth] never lets it rain."
While it can be a sad day, Maria McNamee is out in the morning, cheering on the runners and walkers as they cross the finish line. It is all in memory of her daughter. "Never a day goes by," Maria said about thinking of her daughter.
The community is doing their best to keep Elizabeth's memory alive. Besides her academic achievements, Elizabeth was a member of the West Islip girls soccer team that won the state championship in 1989. "She was just a great all around kid," said Maria.
In the 12 years the run has been taking place, it has raised close to $750,000. Proceeds have gone to research and awareness of the disease as well as scholarships for West Islip students and other worthwhile organizations.
Maria McNamee would like to thank everyone who participated including the donor, sponsors volunteers and runners and walkers. She also wants to thank the entire community for its support. "It couldn't be done without them," she said.