Run for Your Life

Participants begin the 2019 Run for Your Life. The fundraising event to benefit the Edgecombe Cancer Support Foundation will be held at 9 a.m. on Oct. 30 at the Tarboro Brewing Company.

The Edgecombe Cancer Support Foundation is at a financial crossroads as the organization approaches its lone fundraiser of the year, the very popular Run for Your Life.

This year’s Run For Your Life 5K run and 1Kk walk will be held at 9 a.m. on Oct. 30 and will start and end at Tarboro Brewing Company at the corner of Main Street and St. John Street. Online registration can be found at

The Edgecombe Cancer Support Foundation is unique in that every dollar raised stays in Edgecombe County to benefit county residents who are undergoing cancer treatment. There are no administrative fees and no salaries.

Dr. Mark Petruzziello said 2021 is key for the foundation.

“Something has to happen,” he said. “We’re running out of funds and we need help this year. If we don’t, we’ll be out of funds ... we’ll be out of business.”

Petruzziello explained how the foundation came into existence.

“In 2011, a nurse in ICU (at Vidant Edgecombe Hospital) developed breast cancer and co-workers wound up holding fundraisers to help her pay her bills. I thought, ‘that’s crazy’ because she was fully insured,” he said.

The first money, in the amount of $150 checks, went out in 2012.

Since that time, hundreds of thousands of dollars have been awarded to Edgecombe County residents undergoing cancer treatment — $1,000 at a time.

There are three qualifiers for someone who reaches out to the foundation for help:

  • They must be a resident of Edgecombe County.
  • They must have cancer.
  • They must be actively being treated.

Petruzziello said the ease of the application process may be the source of some reluctance on behalf of some corporations to support the foundation.

“We don’t make people jump though hoops,” he said. “We’re simply trying to get them some assistance as quickly as we can.”

He mentioned strong corporate support from Hospira that dwindled to team sponsorships after Pfizer took over the company.

“I really think we don’t place as may requirements as some (companies) would want,” he said. “But we have our rules and we make certain the people we help meet our requirements. They have enough to deal with other than filling out multiple pages of applications.”

He said the foundation is willing to talk to anyone interested in becoming a sponsor as well as anyone who would like to help their Edgecombe County neighbors.

“We have a hard time finding companies where we fit into their philosophy,” he said. “It’s hard to get (corporate) money for our mission.”

Petruzziello’s wife, Pat, described the foundation as “neighbors helping neighbors.”

Over the past five years, money distributed to cancer patients has totaled about $245,000 while the money raised has totaled about $165,000 and the cupboard is almost bare.

The foundation hosts its only fundraiser in the fall.

“We do ours in October to not compete with the (Tarboro Community Outreach) run in the spring,” Petruzziello said.

The foundation’s fundraising run is the only cancer event held in Edgecombe County where the money stays in the area and benefits local residents.

Pat Petruzziello talked about teachers collecting pennies for Relay for Life and then trying to give the money to the foundation, mistakenly thinking all the money went to help locally.

In fact, the money raised through Relay for Life and other similar activities leave Edgecombe County and are used to help fund cancer research after salaries and benefits are paid to staff.

“They don’t even provide gas money anymore,” Mark Petruzziello said, adding that while the foundation is local and holds one fundraising event a year, Relay for Life is national and is a yearlong effort.

“We need an educational effort so that people have an awareness as to where their money goes and how it is used,” Pat said.

This year, a bra decorating event has been added to benefit the foundation.

For a $20 entry fee, individuals, organizations and businesses can enter. Bras must be decorated in a Halloween theme and will be displayed at Tarboro Brewing Company, where the voting will take place for the best decorated bra.