For the first time in Alliance for Lupus Research (ALR) history, the Foundation brought its annual 5K walk to the New Meadowlands Stadium on a memorable Saturday in East Rutherford, NJ. And with 4,000 people — including a large Green & White contingent led by Jets owner/ALR Walk Chairman Woody Johnson — and 207 teams participating, the ALR raised more than $500,000 to support lupus research programs.
"I think we're up 40 percent, 50 percent from last year," said Mr. Johnson. "Ken Farber, the President for ALR, has done a great job and so has all the walkers. All the teams are very enthusiastic. It's an amazing amount of people."
Jets general manager Mike Tannenbaum and head coach Rex Ryan served as honorary walk chairmen and they were joined by a pair of corporate co-chairs: Michelle Lee, regional president of Wells Fargo and Bob Toohey, president of Verizon Business.
"Michelle and Wells Fargo have really gone the extra yard for us. They've raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for lupus research…," said Farber. "We also couldn't ask for a better partner in terms of Bob and Verizon. The people of Verizon have worked tirelessly to help us raise money for lupus, all because they're committed to the same cause we are — a cure for the disease."
Mr. Johnson, who serves on the board of numerous business and philanthropic organizations, has had family members directly affected by lupus and juvenile diabetes and that motivated him to take a leading role in raising funds to prevent, treat and cure autoimmune diseases.
"The Alliance for Lupus Research is incredibly lucky to have enlisted the New York Jets as our major ally in this cause and the whole organization has dedicated itself to raising money for lupus research," Farber said. "And of course it starts at the top with Robert Wood Johnson IV — Woody Johnson. What better ally could any charity ask for, but it's not just Woody. We have Rex Ryan, Mike Tannenbaum and Jets alumni. It's an extraordinary team that has come together to help us fight lupus."
The alumni roll call included Greg Buttle, Bruce Harper, Dave Herman and Wesley Walker, and the organization was also represented by dozens of employees and their families.
"Woody Johnson has a cause he believes in and we believe in him," said Harper, the all-time kick return yardage leader (5,407 yards) in franchise history. "We're going to help out by lending out name out here at the walk today. It's a wonderful thing to come out and be a part of something, and it will help the cause."
Since its founding, ALR has given more money to lupus research — over $65 million — than any non-governmental agency in the word.
"We have been walking for lupus research for close to 10 years," Farber said. "We've raised hundreds and hundreds of thousands dollars for lupus research as a result of our walks around the country. In fact, it's no exaggeration to say we've raised over a $1 million dollars for lupus research."
The week came to an appropriate end on Saturday at the Jets' home. After days of countless downpours and endless gray skies, the sun broke free and delivered some warm rays on a group of 4,000 determined to take down a dreaded disease.
"It's a great opportunity for us to get out in the community with this walk," Ryan said. "The Jets are committed to finding a cure for lupus and obviously I've been involved in it for three years. It's a great opportunity to come out here. The fact that we have 4,000 fans is pretty impressive." New Jersey 5K Walk With Us to Cure Lupus Photos