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Joy in Mudville: Millville cancer fundraiser turns mess into success


Courtesy of The Daily Journal

Written by Cody Glenn

MILLVILLE — The city of Millville was transformed into “Mudville” over the picture-perfect weekend.

Organizers of the Barbara Cook Cancer Foundation’s fifth annual Bill Bottino Mud Run for Cancer gave the city that new nickname as they kicked off what they called the largest fundraiser in Holly City history.

Without a doubt, it was the messiest.

“This is a proud day for Millville,” master of ceremonies Donald Fauerbach declared. “You guys are the heroes — now go get dirty!”

More runners, more obstacles and more mud at the New Jersey Motorsports Park course equaled more money for cancer research and treatment.

Close to 2,000 participants of all ages were covered from head to toe in South Jersey mud after navigating 32 obstacles on the 4-mile course. Kids ran a shorter 1-mile jaunt.

Talk about a leap in turnout. Last year, about 1,000 runners showed up. In 2010, just 200 dove in.

All money raised from the mud run will be split 50/50 between the LiveStrong Foundation and South Jersey Healthcare Foundation.

Barbara Cook Cancer Foundation President Bob Karan said last year’s mud run raised $100,000, but he and organizers had their sights set at an even higher amount this year. A finally tally wasn’t yet available, but a $75,000 check presented before the run by the Bottino family, who own four area ShopRites, certainly was a big boost.

The growing popularity of mud runs is one factor in the increased involvement, as is the widespread personal impact of cancer on many of the runners.

The event’s two namesakes are Barbara Cook, a businesswoman who co-owned Quality Lincoln Hyundai and passed away from pancreatic cancer in 2008, and Bill Bottino, a Bottino ShopRite CEO who passed away from lung cancer in 2006.

Both figures’ legacies live on through their family and friends’ passionate work in raising money to fight the disease that took them.

“Barb was like a sister to me,” said Karan, who worked with Barb at the Millville car dealership. “I miss her. She’s the only reason I do this is. She’d be proud of this day.”

Cook’s husband, Marty, was on hand Saturday as well, cheering on the muddy runners.

“Barb would be right in the thick of it if she was here today,” he said. “This is an amazing turnout.”

Barbara Cook even had a team named in her honor, “Barb’s Babes,” comprising volunteers from the South Jersey Healthcare Auxiliary, of which Cook was a big part.

“We felt like we had to do this for her,” teammate Stacy Fischer of Pittsgrove said. “Barb was an amazing lady.

“She had a tremendous heart,” teammate Rene Rain of Cedarville added.

The late Bill Bottino had his own team in the race: the 45-member strong “Bill’s Flyboys,” dressed in orange and black Philadelphia Flyers colors.

Bill’s first cousin Mike Bottino of Mount Laurel ran through the muck with his 12-year-old son, Nicholas, for the first time.

“It meant a lot,” Mike Bottino said. “I’ve lost a lot of family members to cancer.”

Pat Bottino, Bill’s older brother, called the mud run a “perfect day.”

Pat and Bill got their start in the grocery business after opening up a mom-and-pop store in Camden, where the family is from. Today, the Bottinos run a total of four ShopRites, in Vineland, Upper Deerfield, Millville and Washington Township.

“Bill was a family-first type of guy and an astute businessman,” Pat said of his younger brother.

Money was raised a number of ways Saturday.

Runners were charged between $49 and $85, depending on when they registered. Some teams raised additional money, and multiple auctions and raffles were held. Online donations alone contributed $30,000.

The event was much more than a romp in the mud. Four bands, kids activities and a large tailgate party rounded out the fun.

Team “Double T” raised the most at $5,688, and team member Kim Gaskill of Mantua was recognized for raising the most individually at $1,790.

Close to 90 teams, many dressed in flashy outfits and with filthy names such as “Dirty and I Know It,” “Dirty Girls” and “Dirty Hicks,” ranged in size from two to 60 members.

Not only did the Bottinos donate the giant check, but they also provided a free barbecue for all participants — a welcome sight after four miles of hustling through mud.

This article posted by New Jersey Motorsports Park. Click here for more track information.