Saturday Spotlight- Roger Belz

Name: Roger Belz
Age: 52
Married 28 years, 3 chldren
Tyler 25, Cassie 23, Roger 20.
Hometown Ronkonkoma
Current ; Lake Ronkonkoma
Hobbies: Golf, home repairs,yardwork,engaging with quality people and now running( I guess).
Occupation: Purchasing and decoration coordination for a local cosmetic bottle wholesale company. (26 years)

I was honored when Lou asked me to be WOTW for a week in July and just started to put some thought into it but had not put anything at all on paper . Yesterday I was asked if I could maybe change that to this week , which was basically, tomorrow!. Well , aside from being woefully unprepared, it is even more meaningful for me as a veteran to start off on the Memorial day weekend, and how do you say no to Lou who does so much for us? So here goes…
It all started when I ran into an old college bestie who encouraged me to get back into running…, wait…I don’t know how Denise Marie got into my story….that wasn’t me… let’s try this again….lol

I am the 2nd of 7 kids. 4 boys and 3 girls, all within 10 years. To me, family is everything . We grew up in a neighborhood with kids in every house on the block in a time where everyone was always outside. We played everything from tag to football and hockey. We even went camping as a neighborhood on many Memorial day weekends. Truely a special time and a special place. We were basically a huge extended family. Growing up in this active and supportive environment had a great impact on me and has made me predisposed to seeking out similar experiences. Team sports were a natural fit for me.
I played football and lacrosse in High School and the lacrosse at Marist College for 1 year before I realized that they also wanted me to actually do school work. I was not very disciplined in that area at all . Realizing that this future ,that you thought would happen if you just went along and showed up , was not going to materialize was a major low point in my life. I knew I was not going to go home a failure and pump gas somewhere for a living. I knew that I needed discipline and I had a healthy bit of self loathing so I decided to join the Marine Corps. I figured that if I could endure that bootcamp I may get that discipline and sense of accomplishment I needed. Mission accomplished. I served for 5 years as a ground radio repairman. I served in Okinawa Japan for a year,and concluded my active service with a stint in Saidi Arabia and Kuwait during the first Gulf War with 3rd Battalion 11th Marines, an artillary unit.
After the war I got married ( lucky the war ended in time lol) 2 months later. We started our family and life was good. From the 7 kids our family grew to over 23 nieces and nephews and now 3 great grandkids. On my wife’s side there are about 15 more neices and nephews . There are no small family gatherings. Lol. Life was good, but life always has challenges…eventually
In 2010 my sister Donna was diagnosed with ALS ( Lou Gehrigs disease) .
ALS affects your nervous system and blocks the signals to your muscles causung them to atrophy. Eventually it affects your breathing and your heart.
There are no treatment and no cure. I had watched this disease take my best friends father within 3 years and braced for the same for my sister. We eventually realized that her form of ALS was a slower progression and 9 years later she is still defying the odds. Despite barely being able to grab objects and usind a walker or wheelchair to get around she still works full time and raises a 10 year old son, my godson Michael ( Harry). She refuses to be a victim of this disease and continues to live a life of love and laughter. A true warrior.
For many years we have walked in the annual ALS walk in Eisenhower park to help raise money for the ALS Association and the last 4 years we have run an annual golf outing and dinner to raise money for her medical trust fund. This years event in July will be our 5th . The average out of pocket expenses for ALS patients is over 250,000. With her slower progression we expect that to be even higher than average so we do what we can.
Last year I decided to step up my game to support the ALS Association and committed to run the Hamptons Half Marathon on Team ALS. Literally going from couch to 13.1 in 9 months.I had never run more than 5 miles in my life and that was in bootcamp over 30 years ago. But any discomfort I felt was nothing compared to the challenges my sister faces on a daily basis.
It was during this run that I started chatting with a runner wearing one of those ever present Selden hills shirts that I had seen at every race I had been in during my training. Yolanda Roma Szymanski invited me to come down and run the classic to see what it was all about and I have loved everything about it. Once again I am on a team of forward looking positive people . The encourgement and inspiration I get from this group has pushed me to accept even bigger challenges including running my 2nd half marathon ( cut 25 minutes from my first because of the hills) and the NY marathon this November for Team ALS.
Well that’s enough for now. Time to train. See you all on the hills.
Pictures to follow as I again was slightly unprepared.