WATERBURY — High humidity and threats of thunderstorms did not deter runners and walkers Saturday morning from pounding Waterbury pavement in honor of a beloved musician and journalist.
About 240 runners and walkers took to the downtown area at the ninth annual Bob Veillette 5K Run and Walk, sponsored by the Republican-American. The event raised $10,412 to help cover expenses for stroke survivor and Naugatuck resident Bob Veillette to live at home with his wife Bonnie, where he’s been since the 2006 brain stem stroke that left him paralyzed from the nose down.
Although the race totals were not as high as past years, race coordinator and Republican-American Business Editor Dave Krechevsky said “considering the humid weather, which I believe kept our numbers down, we are very pleased with the final totals.”
Tony Perugini, 34, of Oxford took first place, finishing the 3.1-mile run in 17:28. It was his first time running the Bob 5K, he said. Immediately after crossing the finish line, Perugini posed for a photo with Veillette and thanked him for being an inspiration.
“Once you read about Bob, there’s no turning back,” Perugini said. “Once you hear his story, how can you not run?”
Veillette has “locked-in syndrome,” which affects at least 50,000 Americans alone. Individuals with the rare neurological disorder are cognizant of the world around them and can think and reason, but are unable to speak or move. There is no cure.
Before his stroke, Veillette was well known in Greater Waterbury as an accomplished jazz pianist, performing regularly for charitable causes. He was also a respected journalist, working his way up at the Republican-American from reporter to managing editor over the course of 40 years.
Since 2006, the event has raised more than $145,000 to help pay for Veillette’s care.
Olivia Barnett, 17, who ran with Taft School’s cross country team, shattered the women’s record by finishing the race in 19:59. Marissa Coyne set the record in 2012 with her time of 21:21.
Those who wish to donate to the Veillettes may make non-tax-deductible donations by sending a check made out to “The Veillette Family Recovery Fund” to The Veillette Family Recovery Fund, c/o Naugatuck Valley Savings and Loan, 333 Church St., Naugatuck, CT 06770.