All in the family: ‘Everybody here is part of the Foundation,’ says Dr. Petit

 Sunday, July 15, 2012 8:36 PM EDT

By Erica Schmitt
Staff Writer

A week prior to the fifth anniversary of the tragedy that left Dr. William Petit’s life in shambles, he welcomed more than 3,000 people into his “family” — thanks to the highest-ever turnout at Sunday’s GE 5K Road Race to benefit the Petit Family Foundation.

“Everybody here is part of the Foundation; but now this makes everybody part of our extended family too,” Petit said following the race, which carried on the spirit and work of his wife, Jennifer, and daughters Hayley and Michaela, who were murdered in a home invasion in 2007.

While Woodford Avenue and Route 10 were swimming with runners and walkers throughout the morning, one individual joined in the cause from the sidelines, in a wheelchair.

Middletown resident Sharon Wallace shares at least two commonalities with the Petits: the same birthday as Bill, and the same illness as his late wife, Jennifer.

“I was diagnosed MS 15 years ago,” explained Wallace, who has attended the race every year, since the foundation uses its funds to not only foster young women’s schooling and prevent violence against women, but also to improve the lives of those affected by chronic illnesses, including multiple sclerosis.

“At times I start crying because it affects me so deeply to see how many people came out for this,” said Wallace, who in praising the family’s generosity noted that she received a birthday card from Dr. Petit while in the hospital.

Sitting beside Wallace was East Hartford resident Susan Tukey, spreading awareness about the disease for the National MS Society, an organization that both of Petit’s daughters were dedicated to serving in honor of their mother.

“It’s exciting to be a part of this grand picture, but hopefully someday we don’t have to have a tent here because MS will be wiped out,” Tukey commented.

Sporting their lime green Petit Foundation T-shirts, volunteers and his immediate family and friends buzzed around the scene, helping however they could.

“It’s just heartwarming for all of us to see so many people who care come out,” said Petit’s aunt, Beverly Joyce, a Plainville resident.

Prizes for race winners were donated by local businesses General Electric, Liberty Bank, Plainville Oil, Central Café, Dairy Queen and The Hospital for Special Care. They included a MacBook Pro, gas cards to Mobil and nearby Gnazzo’s, and Timex watches.

While all participants had the Petit family close to their hearts Sunday, some also had their own personal goals in mind.

“This is my first road race, I wanted to see if I could do it,” said Plainville resident Dennis Perrotti, who was just a minute-and-a-half past his target of running the 3.1 mile course in 27 minutes.

And then there was 83-year-old Robby Logan, who took second place in the 80-plus class, with a time of 47 minutes.

“I always feel satisfied afterwards, I want to go out again,” Logan said to his young granddaughters, who stared up at him in awe.

78-year-old Jeannette Cyr also had onlookers wide-eyed and commending her performance after she took first place in the 70 to 79 class.

“I’ve finished 68 marathons,” Cyr, a Berlin resident, exclaimed proudly. “It keeps me moving.”

To see a complete list of race winners or make a donation to the Petit Family Foundation, visit .

Erica Schmitt can be reached at (860) 225-4601, ext. 210, .