TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – Carol Coniglio said she’d never been a runner. That changed in 2012.
“Our first son, Tadhg, was born with Down’s syndrome. We found out in labor about his diagnosis. I remember feeling completely overwhelmed and worried about his health, quality of life, our finances to raise a special needs child, and of course, the stress of him being accepted by society,” Carol said.
That’s why one day Carol left Tadgh in the care of her mom, who was visiting from Ireland, and decided to go for a jog.
“I need to get out and be one with the wind,” said Carol.
The jog turned turned into a habit that she began to share with her son. With Tadhg along for the journey in his stroller, Carol felt she could show him the world. They became a duo at races throughout the Tampa Bay area and running became Carol’s passion.
But now, Carol is pounding the pavement for someone else.
Her mom, Barbara, was diagnosed with a rare form of Parkinson’s Disease, called Multiple Syndrome Atrophy (MSA). The degenerative neurological disorder affects involuntary functions, including blood pressure, breathing, bladder function and motor control. The condition progresses gradually and eventually leads to death.
Carol set out to learn more about MSA, a road that led to the Michael J Fox Foundation For Parkinson’s Research, which is focused on building improved knowledge about the lived experience of Parkinson’s disease, finding an objective test for Parkinson’s, engaging patients in research and supporting the development of new treatments and a cure.
Carol applied, and was accepted, to run the Chicago Marathon as a Fox Athlete, pledging to raise money for the Fox Foundation. She decided to document her training on Facebook, so Barbara could follow along.
“I want to inspire her,” Carol explained. “She has the mental capacity to beat this disease. Anything’s possible.”
When the Chicago Marathon was cancelled due the pandemic, Carol vowed to keep her pledge to her mom.
“In my mind’s eye the marathon is still on, so I’m still going to run it here and then I’m going to run it again in October of next year,” Carol said.
She’s still working on the details of her route in October, something she plans to share on her fundraising page.
Her husband, Tadhg and youngest son, Fionn, will be there to cheer her on.
So far, Carol has raised about half of her $2,500 pledge to the Fox Foundation, but hopes to raise a lot more. She says she’s in a race against time to save her mother.
“I really want to find a cure for my mom and others like her who are suffering from this debilitating disease. More and more people every year are being diagnosed with Parkinson’s. There needs to be more education on it, and more help. And there needs to be a cure.”
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