Ari Marino is fundraising money for Child Cancer Foundation and the Crusaders Long Run event.
Ari Marino will be up before the crack of dawn, running around the Crusaders’ complex in Christchurch well before the majority of the country rises.
Raising money for the Child Cancer Foundation will be on the 8-year-old’s mind. As will his friend, Lachie Connell, as he takes part in the Long Run, a Crusaders’ led community fundraiser on Friday.
Diagnosed with leukaemia four years ago, Lachie, 8, is now in the clear. Or, as Ari puts it, he “kicked its butt”.
But, having seen what his friend and his family went through – two years of treatment before going into remission – Ari was motivated by Lachie’s cancer journey.
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“We thought at the very start we’d only raise $500,” a wide-eyed Ari said, surprised his more than $2000 was leading the charge.
Sports mad Ari met Lachie at St Albans Catholic School when the latter was in and out of the classroom.
“They used to have a monkey so when Lachie was in having treatments the monkey would sit in Lachie’s seat, and the kids would take it down to the mat if they had nap time or whatever. Just to remind the kids that he was part of their year,” Tina Mahony, Ari’s mother, said.
Ari ran nine laps (about 9km) alongside Crusaders academy director Aaron Webb last March, when Webb clocked 112 laps in a bid to raise money for Child Cancer Foundation.
A year after Webb lost all but one of his toenails after his 102km run, the Crusaders, through their Crusade with Heart initiative, have made it a community event – 153 laps of the Crusaders’ Rugby Park complex and adjacent Malvern Park, one for each of the 153 children diagnosed with cancer each year.
Ari will run the first alongside Webb at 6am, and the last (about 8pm). In-between, the rugby, tennis, touch and cricket mad Crusaders fan plans to run 18 laps.
“How good is that?” Webb said.
“I think that’s what shocked me last year, how many kids came out and ran with me. They were running 10, 12, 15 laps. Really, it gave me the inspiration to make this bigger and better.
“Someone like Ari, I think it’s cool for someone who is 8-years-old to be involved in something bigger than him, and understand that he’s raising money for his mate who had cancer, but also other families.”
Highlighted by Richie Mo’unga, Ari’s favourite player and an ambassador for Child Cancer Foundation, Crusaders and Matatū players will be there during the day, with the reigning Super Rugby champion Crusaders holding an open training at Malvern Park between 11am and noon.
With the 102km Tarawera ultra marathon looming for Webb next month, the 51-year-old will on Friday run a couple of half-marathons – one in the morning and one in the afternoon – before leading the final lap alongside Ari.
Webb hopes that final lap, roughly 14 hours after the first, will be at least the 5000th collective lap, a mark which will trigger major sponsor James Jones Steel Ltd to chip in $1 for each lap.
“We wanted to really engage the community, make it more than it being about one person this year,” Webb said.
“If we can give a little bit of pain of ourselves, then that maybe gives us some small indication of what some of these kids are going through, who are dealing with cancer every day.”
Awarded A$10,000 (NZ$10,594) last month after being crowned the best sporting team in Australasia, the Crusaders used the grant to kick-start their quest to raise $100,000 during the Long Run.