Danielle Hassenbein and Hara O’Dowd planned on running in the New York City Marathon on Sunday, but the race was cancelled due to the after effects of Hurricane Sandy.
The girls ran a marathon anyway. They didn’t run for themselves though. They ran for Bob Franco.
Franco, a Wayne police officer, suffered a severe spinal cord injury when a tree fell on him Monday during the storm while he was sitting in his patrol car near Fire Company 5 on Lake Drive West. Franco is also a firefighter with the company.
The event was organized in about 24 hours. The girls have never even met Franco.
“We didn’t just want to run for nothing,” O’Dowd said. “We wanted to help him and his family in some way.”
The girls ran two 13.1-mile laps around the Packanack Lake section of town. Each mile they ran raised a little bit of money for Franco and his family. Franco is currently at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Paterson undergoing physical therapy and rehabilitation.
Franco has very little mobillity. He has feeeling in his hands and can shurg his shoulders a little bit, but not much else.
“Mentally, he’s strong. He’s as upbeat as ever,” said Dave Rasa, Franco’s brother in law and his attending physician at St. Joseph’s. “He’s just started to be able to swallow and can’t use his hands.”
The family said the outpouring of support they’ve received from the community has been amazing.
“We’re taking it day by day,” Franco’s sister Kara said. “We’re doing everything we can do to support his wife and kids.”
Franco is a 15-year member of Company 5. The run started there. A few dozen residents participated. Some ran the full 26.2 miles. Others just walked around Packanack Lake.
But the distances people ran didn’t matter, O’Dowd said.
“We’re just so glad people could come out and support the family and Mr. Franco,” O’Dowd said. “We need to be here to support them. They’ve given us so much and we needed to give something back to them.”