CALDWELL, NJ — Last year, nearly 800 runners and more than 100 volunteers helped the Caroline Fund raise $100,000 toward brain and spine tumor research being performed by Caldwell resident Caroline Vandemark’s surgeons at Hackensack University Medical Center (HUMC). This year, the Vandemark Family hopes to attract even more support at the third annual Caroline Fund 5K held in her memory on Saturday, Sept. 10 at St. Aloysius Church in Caldwell.
The Caroline Fund is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization created in memory of Caroline Vandemark, who died in 2013 from an aggressive form of brain cancer at age 22. This year, the event is also in memory of Caroline's father and former Caroline Fund President and founder Charlie Vandemark, who died right before last year's 5K Race.
“It’s nice that we can honor them both together, it means so much to the fund itself,” said Mary Vandemark, Caroline’s mother, who said that the race has become a fun, positive and inspiring day for the entire family. “[The fund’s] dedication and love and hard work is unbelievable and the day couldn’t happen without them, without the Caroline Fund itself. It’s overwhelming the support that comes from a small community like this.”
According to Julia Tomkins, secretary of the Caroline Fund, more than 400 participants are already pre-registered for this year’s event, which supports research at the John Theurer Cancer Center at HUMC.
Since its establishment, the Caroline Fund has helped to fund cutting-edge research that has enabled the doctors to discover several novel treatment options. In its first year, the race accumulated between $45,000 and $50,000 and was able to double that number in its second—a feat that the family hopes to repeat this year.
The family established the 5K in response to a blessing from Caroline’s doctors, Dr. Goldlust and Dr. Kaptain, who established a neuro-oncology department in Caroline’s memory named the Caroline Vandemark Fund for Brain and Spine Tumor Research at HUMC. Today, Caroline’s younger sister Eileen says the race has become about much more than Caroline.
“The major goal of the fund is, firstly, to find a cure,” said Eileen. “That’s everyone’s main motive, but secondly to make people feel better who are also going through the same thing and to bring people together to make them feel like you can help in finding the cure—that you aren’t helpless.”
Eileen said that some participants join as individuals, but that the family likes the idea that teams bring people together, shining a light on other people facing the same battle. In fact, a Cedar Grove State Trooper who is currently battling the same cancer, glioblastoma, participates with one of the largest Caroline Fund 5K teams called “No Fear.”
It is not to late to register a team or individuals for Saturday’s race: registration begins at 7:30 a.m. with the race beginning at 9 a.m. Participants are also encouraged to bring their families to enjoy face painting, games and more on the day.
“Being there in general is really inspiring—I always leave feeling really inspired like I can actually make a change,” said Eileen. “You leave feeling really positive and it’s really enthusiastic and fun. Everyone seems to have a smile on their face.”
To register for this event, click HERE.
The Vandemark Family and members of the Caroline Fund thanked the following sponsors for their contributions to the event:
Platinum Tier Sponsors: Stanley & Gene Lasdon Foundation
Gold Tier Sponsors: IGEA Brain & Spine, PA; Gregory Heifler, M.D.
Silver Tier Sponsors: Iron Physical Therapy; IUOE Local 68 Charity Fund Inc.; Partners for Health, Inc.; Caldwell Salt Cave; Tri-Coastal Design Group, Inc.; Einhorn, Harris, Ascher, Barbarito & Frost, P.C.; Portables Unlimited; West Orange Elks Charities Fund; The Joint Chiropractic; CrossFit Caldwell LLC; American Maritime Services of N.Y., Inc.; and Shook Farmer Funeral Home LLC
Bronze Tier Sponsors: Bellevue Avenue Dental Associates; South Orange Chiropractic Center; and Hackensack UMC Mountainside
To hear more about Caroline’s story and the impact she made on the community click HERE.