Overcoming Mother Nature’s Hurdle: Third Annual 24-Hour Relay Run for Research a Success!

Categories: Blog, Events, Other, Runners Program

You may recall that we first promoted the 24 Hour Relay Run a couple of months ago as a FUN way to bring friends, neighbors, relatives, and the local community together in support of LuMind Research Down Syndrome Foundation and Down syndrome cognition research.

Pictured: Lisa Arnoa and Matt MacDougall

As a quick reminder, the idea for the 24 Hour Relay Run for Research – to run or walk for a 24-hour period as part of a relay team – was developed by Lisa Arnoa and Matt MacDougall three years ago. Each team and participant taking part in the event is asked to raise money in support of cognition research and then everyone comes together for a fun-filled weekend. There are no strict rules and the name of the game is to just get out there and have a good time. Lisa and Matt encourage all participants to just stop by to hang with friends and neighbors, do a little running, and stick around for as long as possible.

This year, they renamed the event to remember their moms, who were their biggest mentors and inspirations in life.

Ann and Dee’s 24-Hour Relay Run for Research 2016 began at 8am on Saturday, July 30th at Morris Catholic High School in Denville, NJ. The day started out like any other day in late July – sweltering temperatures and a thick humidity in the air. Despite the heat, runners and teams filed in on time with smiles, laughter, and such optimism that could make anyone jump out of their seat and say “Hey! I can run a few miles!” The muggy conditions evaporated as the positive vibe of running teams, representing families, friends, colleagues and others who just wanted to make a difference, got the party started. The music was pumping, the chatter was upbeat, and this third annual event was off to such a great start!


Although there were no obstacles intended for participants’ run or walk around the track, Mother Nature had her own plans. At around 4 o’clock in the afternoon, heavy rain, lightning, and severe wind gusts came in with a bang… adding a few unexpected hurdles for everyone to overcome.

Matt and Lisa surveyed the aftermath: two canopies had been tossed around and their frames were broken, much of the food was soaked and inedible, electrical devices were unusable, and personal tents were devastated.

After much debate and discussion, the decision was made to end the event early. Matt and Lisa were heartbroken to have to deliver the news to everyone who had waited out the storms and severe weather.

Although it was a major disappointment that the 24-Hour Relay Run for Research event could not be carried out to completion, it became apparent that there had been so many examples of perseverance, dedication, and inspiration present the entire time.”

Matt told us confidently, “we accomplished something that wasn’t necessarily present to the naked eye: we inspired people; we brought people together; we showed what love, kindness, and hope can do when even a small group of people band together for a purpose!”


He goes on to say: “When the storm began to damage our equipment, many participants jumped out of their cars and came back to help without a thought to their own personal comfort. When the storm began to subside, many of our participants wanted to know when we were starting up and who was next to run/walk. When we talked to everyone, not ONE person had a look of disappointment on their face. In fact, they all wore smiles! When other storms continued to blow through, laughter and joking was heard instead of sighs of anguish or frustration.”

The 24-Hour Relay Run for Research not only served to raise awareness and support for Down syndrome research, but also proved what can be accomplished when people from various cultures and backgrounds give selflessly with love and hope to a common purpose. Matt tells us that he was, and still is, “honored at the level of support we received for this event.”

Oh, and did we mention the event brought in over $10,000 in funds for Down syndrome cognition research? We are truly thankful for all those who supported the 24-Hour Relay Run and all those who braved the elements on July 30. We especially want to extend our gratitude to Dan and Pat Flatley, who were tremendous in their service. As Matt states, “this family truly embodies what it looks like when love, commitment, generosity, and compassion come together.” We thank you!


It is truly evident that the greater Denville, NJ community serves to promote the greater good when we consider the efforts that Sal’s karate instructor to create a Taekwondo program designed specifically for children with special needs (Sal is Lisa Arnoa’s son and is the inspiration behind the 24-Hour Relay). Samantha Thomas of Dragon’s Den Martial Arts in Budd Lake, NJ tells us that she started the academy 3 1/2 years ago. She had one student with autism in her program and witnessed how much the classes helped him in his day to day life. This led her to start teaching special needs classes as a means to help the students learn different coping, physical, and character skills. Taekwondo is a tool that can be used to help children learn depth perception, impulse control, and coordination.