BY Molly Congdon
LATHAM—On Saturday, November 21 starting at 8a.m. and going through Sunday, November 22, Halfmoon Town Planner Rich Harris, a Jiu-Jitsu Brown Belt, will be doing a Roll-a-thon fundraiser, which will involve him rolling on the mats with various partners within Bruno Tostes Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu—Team Renzo Gracie Latham—located at 698 New Loudon Road— for 24 hours.
The proceeds for this event will go to New York Oncology Hematology (NYOH) to help families within the Capital Region who are struggling with the financial stress that comes as part of the battle when fighting off cancer.
Harris is well acquainted with the devastation that comes with a cancer diagnosis. His father, Richard passed away from Multiply Myeloma in 2009.
Then in November 2014, his wife and mother of three kids, Laurie, was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a blood cancer of the bone marrow. For the next year and a half, she underwent chemotherapy, and then this past summer she had a stem cell transplant to further aid in knocking the cancer out of her system
“When she went for the stem cell transplant she was out of work automatically for three months,” Harris said. “The staff at NYOH, which is a private consortium of doctors, have a foundation and they told us you qualify for $300 gift cards for basics; that’s awful nice. I thought about how there are so many other people that need it more than us—this is a really good foundation.”
The foundation provides emergency financial support for families undergoing cancer treatment for things such as travel costs, accommodations and groceries; alleviating a bit of the weight from the shoulders of the family members.
Harris started jiu-jitsu eight years ago to stay active and in shape. “I was almost 40 and I realized that I needed to do something other than lift weights,” Harris said. “I wanted something cardiovascular without the running or treadmills.”
Doing it for 24 hours, though, will be no easy feat. “I have done Vegas all night for 24 hours, but that didn’t involve exercise,” Harris said with a smile. “I’m not going to be going 100 percent for 24 hours; I’m going to be doing some flow rolling, there’s a few classes mixed in…my plan is to be rolling and drilling for 24 hours.”
Thankfully he will also take food and bathroom breaks.
He is seeking pledges of $1 per hour—of course more is welcome and will be appreciated—for each hour on the mat.
This type of fundraiser is actually quite fashionable throughout the country and even internationally. “It’s popular in England, believe it or not,” Harris said. “A bunch of schools come together and do it in large gymnasiums.”
But he had never heard of something like this going on in this area. “I thought, you know what, this is something I want to take on,” Harris said.
So far Harris has raised over $1500. His goal is $2,000 but he really hopes to make it to $3,000.
“It hits home for me personally,” Harris said. “The amount of time and effort I’m putting into it is easy because it’s something that my wife and I benefited from and it’s giving back to our own community because it’s a Capital District foundation that gives to local families.”