For Dean Chronopolous, it’s all about keeping it close to home.
This will mark the 10th year of the Bill’s Pizzeria 5K Road Race (B5K) in Newton, MA. Dean and the entire Chronopoulos family host this event to benefit the Travis Roy Foundation. 10 years ago, Dean’s brother Taso became paralyzed in a car accident, and spent time at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital in Boston. It was there that the family realized how heavily they would need to rely on the resources around them.
“During Taso’s time at Spaulding, we met a lot of people and their families affected by spinal cord injuries,” said Dean. “There was a kid who had just come in and was staying in a room next to Taso’s. He had sustained a complete C2-C3 injury. The young man barely had any movement below his eyes and face. Foreign born and alone supporting his young family, they were very limited financially and didn’t have any resources for help.” Dean and his family knew they had to do more. When people mentioned the Travis Roy Foundation, Dean said he remembered Travis’s on-ice accident and how he had been recognized as a celebrity with all his accomplishments in the New England area. The local ties to Boston held strong for Dean. “I realized at that moment I needed to learn more about the TRF and figure out what our contributions would be to the spinal cord injury community.”
The Chronopoulos family was still unsure of what Taso’s future would look like going forward. “We were overwhelmed by supporters and friends wanting to lend a hand where it was needed. They provided emotional and spiritual support as well as physical labor when it came time to help build a wheelchair accessible house for Taso. People just stepped up.”
As they all settled in with a new lifestyle and Taso’s desire to gain independence, Dean realized there was more work to be done. “We thought we would do one or two events for the TRF. We all wanted to do more for the SCI community and began brainstorming ideas when a family friend who was involved in the running community and had experience in organizing events suggested a road race to raise funds and awareness.” The Chronopoulos family has owned Bill’s Pizzeria since the 70’s. “We all grew up working there and was a very big part of our upbringing. We wanted to incorporate the restaurant with our eagerness to giveback.” That desire to help resulted in the first Bill’s 5K Road Race in 2006. With their friend Kelly at the helm with guidance and support, and a selfless desire to pull it all together year after year, the B5K has turned into a highly anticipated, annual community event.
“It’s all about getting people involved…as many as possible,” Dean said. “What’s cool about this race is that we have some of the most elite runners. We also have people who have never run a road race but always wanted to. It’s competitive, yet comfortable, supportive, and family-friendly. I love watching the families that ran with their young children in baby carriages. Now, 10 years later, they are running along side with them. They come out to support us every year. That’s what keeps our fires burning, it’s therapeutic to watch and see this amazing event come together.”
Each year, Dean is motivated by everyone who steps up and realizes the importance of continuing the mission. “I can’t give enough credit to those volunteers who help us organize and pitch in. We’re fortunate to be in the Boston area, with the best people and the best hospitals and rehabilitation centers. We are proud to be involved and to give back to the Travis Roy Foundation and the SCI community. I’m happy to do this little part, and even this little part helps make a big difference.”