It all began in 2007 when Lou Mongello decided he wanted to run a half marathon. His wife Deanna, and friends Valerie and Steve Drew, and a few others joined him and together they started the WDW Radio Running Team. However, that’s not all Lou wanted to do. He wanted to run with a purpose, so the Dream Team Project was started. Over the past decade, the team has grown from a handful of runners in 2010 to over 610 members today. Join me in celebrating this milestone for the WDW Radio Running Team.
The WDW Radio Running Team
The WDW Radio Running Team is not a group of elite runners looking to win every event. It’s just the opposite. We are a team of people from all over the world that love Disney and enjoy participating in running events. There are all levels of participants: walkers, run/walkers, some even in wheelchairs. Members range from elite runners to those who are just trying to finish their first 5K (3.1 miles). We have people from all walks of life as well (which can make for interesting conversations). Unlike other running groups who might train weekly together, we often train alone and log our weekly miles on our closed Facebook page. Some members do get together to run or meet up at different races outside of runDisney. On race day we all have the love of Disney as a common denominator that brings us all together.
Since I became a member of the running team, I have met some pretty amazing new friends. We may only actually see each other in person once or twice a year, but we are always on social media supporting each other in our real lives. Through the team, I have met people from all over the United States – and the world for that matter. I look forward to each visit to Walt Disney World or Disneyland with the hopes of seeing some of these friends.
A fun part of the team is coordinating running costumes for smaller groups. This is arranged over the internet for the most part, and it’s fun to see the outcome of all the planning. Of course, we still wear our WDW Radio Running Team blue shirts and/or headbands so we can spot each other on the course.
Not everyone on the running team actually runs. We have a great Cheer Squad that will move around the parks lending encouragement to those who are running. Before events, we are notified where people will be located so we can stop and give sweaty hugs or just get a shout out from friends as you run by. During the marathon, the team will have people stationed at each of the four theme parks and ESPN Sports Center passing out “food” to the running team. Twizzlers, Hershey kisses, animal crackers and peppermint never taste as good as the ones you are given from a fellow team member as you run through the miles of a marathon.
Another reason I like this team is you can always find someone who runs your pace, no matter how slow or fast you run. The support given to each other is phenomenal. I’ve witnessed other members stopping to help a fallen team member, or slowing down to stay with someone who didn’t think they could complete an event. The members also encourage other runners as a “you’ve got this” or “keep up the good work” can get you through a tough mile.
Dream Team Project
Lou and Deanna Mongello are very passionate about the running team and the Dream Team Project’s accomplishments:
“The Dream Team Project raises money to send children with life-threatening medical conditions and their families to Walt Disney World. Rather than donate money to cancer research, I wanted to help a child and their family now, when they may need it most. Although cancer research is in serious need of funding and donations, I wanted to make a difference for a child today. A child and their family who may be suffering physically, emotionally and spiritually, are also often struggling financially to pay for hospital bills and other medical expenses. Not only is it difficult to deal with the illness itself, but often children are confined to a hospital or bed.
“By granting their wish to go to Walt Disney World, we can help make a child’s life a bit brighter by spending some time away from the hospital, and in one of the happiest places on Earth.
“This wish trip, sponsored by the Dream Team Project through the Make-A-Wish Foundation, can make all the difference in a family’s life. These children can, even if just for a few days, forget about the pain and fear of their medical treatment, while parents and siblings can focus on enjoying time together, rather than the stress of the illness. The granting of a wish like this will undoubtedly bring smiles and joy to the children and their families that will likely have been absent from their lives.
The more money that we raise, the greater the number of children who can benefit.” – Lou Mongello, Dream Team Project website.
To date, the Dream Team Project has raised over $250,000 for the Make-A-Wish Foundation and has granted numerous wishes. During the runDisney Marathon Weekend, after the half marathon, the running team gathers at the Magic Kingdom Park to meet the family and child that they helped grant a magical vacation for.
Lou and Deanna make you feel as if you are part of their family. It doesn’t matter if you just joined the team or have been friends for over a decade, we are all loved and cherished by the Mongello family and look forward to our next chance encounter, wherever that might be.
So what’s holding you back? Take that first step and become of member of the best running team I know! Join the WDW Radio Running Team today.
(Part of the article is quoted from the Dream Team Project website with permission.)
(Photos property of Brett Baudoin, Valerie Drew, Liz Driscoll, Beatrice Feeney, Emma Godbold, Frank A. Hart, Emily Hartzog, Zack Hudson, Jennalyn Jaeger, Beci Mahnken, John Mallonee, Terry Mann, Katie McNamara, Deanna Mongello, Sue Passauer, Angel Ramos, Bill Swan, and Disney Photography. Logos property of WDW Radio, WDW Radio Running Team, and the Dream Team Project. The rest of the photos are from the personal collection of the author.)
To learn more about Vanessa and read her recent posts for WDW Radio, visit her author page by clicking the link on her name at the top of this post.