A Jersey Shore tradition is back.

The Sea Girt 5K will mark its 31st year on Aug. 6. In addition to benefiting Sea Grit Recreation, race organizers also choose a local charity to help raise money and awareness for. Their pick for this year is The Ashley Lauren Foundation, an organization based in Brielle, that supports families going through pediatric cancer.

According to Mike D’Altrui, race director of the Sea Girt 5k, he became aware of The Ashley Lauren Foundation through a fellow colleague who volunteers with the foundation.

What is The Ashley Lauren Foundation?

Monica Vermeulen, the CEO and founder of The Ashley Lauren Foundation, said her 3-year-old daughter Ashley was diagnosed with Wilms tumor, which is a rare kidney cancer, in 1991.

“For every parent who has heard the words, ‘Your child has cancer,’ it is a moment frozen in time. In one shattering instant, life forever changes,” she said.

Avery is one of the ALF children (Photo Credit: Monica Vermeulen)
Avery is one of the ALF children (Photo Credit: Monica Vermeulen)
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Ashley endured many grueling years of chemotherapy, radiation, and their effects, eventually losing her left kidney to the disease.

Vermeulen said she is fortunate to still have her daughter. Today, Ashley is cancer-free, married and the mother to an 18-month-old baby boy.

After Ashley’s harrowing ordeal, Vermeulen decided to go back to college and get a degree in nonprofit management with a focus on childhood cancer.

Kiah is one of ALF's children (Photo Credit: Monica Vermeulen)
Kiah is one of ALF's children (Photo Credit: Monica Vermeulen)
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She then opened the foundation in 2005.

“We’ve helped thousands of children battling the same dreaded disease throughout the state, and I’m a cancer survivor as well,” Vermeulen said.

To help ease the journey of pediatric cancer, the foundation provides direct financial, material, and emotional assistance, along with its many programs developed to bring smiles to children. They work hands-on with each family to provide immediate relief for the daily burdens thrust upon those who are battling pediatric cancer.

Vermeulen said oftentimes when she meets a new family who finds out she’s been through a similar nightmare, they feel better knowing that she completely understands what they are going through.

What can you expect on race day?

Sea Girt 5K Run/Walk 2021 (Photo Credit: Mike D'Altrui)
Sea Girt 5K Run/Walk 2021 (Photo Credit: Mike D'Altrui)
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Pre-registration will be $35 through Aug. 3 and in-person post-registration on Aug. 5 and 6 will be $40. Kids’ races and activities will cost $15.

People can register at www.seagirt5k.com. D’Altrui is encouraging people to make an extra donation during registration to help out the foundation.

The Sea Girt 5K kicks off at 8:30 a.m,. across from Fratello's Restaurant in Sea Grit. Kids’ races start at 10 a.m. Kids’ activities which include pony rides, bounce house, inflatable slide, and more run from 8:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.

There will be four live bands on the race course, custom t-shirts, and an after-party at Fratello’s Restaurant.

“The race is a great community event. It’s a Jersey Shore summer tradition. We get upwards of 2,500 people every year. The whole community helps out. It’s a great time for everyone in the area to get out there, get some exercise, have some fun, and support a great cause,” D’Atrui said.

The hope is to raise as much money and awareness for The Ashley Lauren Foundation as possible, he added.

Vermeulen said she and her daughter hope to be there on race day, along with other foundation families on hand. She said she's grateful to D'Altrui and the town of Sea Girt for choosing them as their local charity this year.

Jen Ursillo is a reporter and anchor for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach her at jennifer.ursillo@townsquaremedia.com

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