Ed and Kay Canty lost their 30-year-old son Michael in the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, but as they gathered with family, friends and supporters to honor him in Central Park on Sunday, the focus was on what has been gained from the tragedy.
A Linton High School graduate, Michael Canty was a commodities broker for Carr Futures in New York City when he lost his life. Every Labor Day weekend since then, his family and friends have honored his memory with the Mike Canty Family Fun Run, which raises money for the Michael Canty Memorial Fund and has also provided a way for the Cantys to heal emotionally.
Sunday’s event, which the family has decided will be the final fun run, raised about $30,000, Ed Canty estimated.
Although there won’t be a run next year, there is another memorial event in the works, according to Mary Canty, Mike Canty’s oldest sister. A golf tournament at Schenectady Municipal Golf Course is being planned for Labor Day weekend next year, she said.
Close to 600 runners registered for Sunday’s 5k run and 3k walk through Central Park, and nearly 40 children turned out for the kids’ race around Tiny Tot Land.
Before race time, friends and family greeted each other with hugs and smiles. Some came from as far away as Oregon and Indiana to be there.
“They came out of the woodwork, I’ll tell ya,” said Kay Canty, her pleasure evident as she surveyed the cheerful crowd gathered beneath the Thomas E. Isabella Picnic Pavilion.
Friends Chris and Laura Diemer of Reading, Mass., have made the trip to Schenectady annually for the race. Their son, Ben, 5, was frantically doing jumping jacks to warm up for Sunday’s kids’ run, while his brothers, Adam, 9 and Grady, 7, looked on.
“This would be very up [Mike’s] alley,” said Chris Diemer, who shared a locker with Canty in high school and lived with him for a time in Boston. “He was a great, genuine friend.”
Kay Canty worries that she’ll no longer see some of the friends who faithfully attended the run.
“It is bittersweet,” she mused, about the event coming to a close. “It’s kind of a relief because it’s a lot of work. We have invested, so that the scholarship will go on for a long time, so I thought to go out now would be better than to wait till it dwindles.”
To date, the memorial fund has provided 11 Schenectady High School students with scholarships. Recipients are awarded $7,500 a year for four years to help pay for college expenses. Scholarships will still be generated from the fund for five or 10 more years, Ed Canty estimated.
Organizing the fun run has helped the family to get through the 11 years since the terrorist attacks.
“So many people cared and that was amazing to us. That helped a lot and they were so incredibly generous,” Kay Canty said.
Peter Canty, her youngest son, agreed: “It’s really nice to make something good out of something so tragic. I think it really helps our family deal with our grief,” he said.
The Cantys, who raised nine children of their own, consider the students the memorial fund has sponsored to be like family.
“So that makes 20,” said Ed Canty, adding the scholarship winners to the tally of his offspring.
Kelsey Lupo, the 2005 scholarship recipient, said she feels close to the Cantys.
“The scholars are invited up to their camp in the summer and it’s just a big family event and you feel part of that family, so it’s not just winning money, it’s winning a family as well,” she said.
Lupo and five other scholarship recipients were on hand at Sunday’s event. Before the 5k run began, they were acknowledged at an opening ceremony.
“We’ve been so lucky to have these wonderful kids,” Kay Canty said, beaming at them. “Every one has finished college in four years and really have made us proud.”