By Ken MacLeod

BOSTON (CBS) – Jake Kennedy, founder of Christmas in the City and Kennedy Brothers Physical Therapy, was diagnosed with ALS last year in November. Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis – or Lou Gehrig’s Disease – attacks the nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord.

This year, Kennedy was supposed to run the Boston Marathon for the 38th time.

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But when the Boston Marathon went virtual this year due to COVID-19, friends and family of Kennedy went to work, running their own route on Sunday to honor him and raise money for his care.

Runners were able to raise more than $50,000 for Kennedy, which will help him receive treatments and medical help at home.

“Today is a wonderful way to honor Jake Kennedy, who gave so much back to the community and to so many people,” said Rosemarie Sansone, a friend and former patient. “It’s really a celebration of the contribution he has made.”

Created in 1989, Kennedy’s annual Christmas in the City event is an all-volunteer outing in Boston that provides homeless and needy children with toys, clothing and a day of fun at Christmas time. His physical therapy office is also located in Boston.

More than 50 people took part in a 26-mile relay from Scituate to Boston for Kennedy.

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Runners handed off the baton along the course, with the finish line for the “Jake-athon” right outside the Kennedy Brothers’ office on Franklin Street.

Runners passing a baton as part of Saturday’s charity relay race for Jake Kennedy. (WBZ-TV)

Kennedy’s wife, Sparky, and his son, Zack, held the finish line tape, while his other son, Chip, completed the final leg.

“It’s very emotional, I think, for all of us to have that opportunity to repay Jake Kennedy,” said friend and patient Joe Baerlain. “Today is such a gift for all of us to see the humanity in people and the goodness in people trying to help someone who has never asked for help in his whole life.”

Kennedy did not go to the event, as the risk of infection kept him away.

Contributions to Kennedy’s ALS care can be made at his GoFundMe page.

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Kennedy is the fourth person in his family to be afflicted by ALS. After being diagnosed, Kennedy created the Jake Kennedy ALS Fund at UMass Medical Center in January, raising over $300,000 for ALS research.

Ken MacLeod