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Running for one of our own: Rabbi and student help student fighting degenerative disorder

Brandon Londer motivates Rabbi and student to raise money and awareness for disease

Team Brandon
Rabbi Mendy Rimler with his Team Brandon bib and Race Medal. Sunday, Jan. 15, 2017

Three months ago, Rabbi Mendy Rimler and ASU graduate student Greg Haft set foot to pavement and trekked with a purpose. On Jan. 15, both men raced in the Rock n’ Roll half-marathon as "Team Brandon."

Rimler, adviser to Chabad at ASU, formulated the plan and set it in motion for the two to run the half-marathon on behalf of biomedical engineering senior, Brandon Londer. Rimler said Londer was diagnosed with a disease called CJD, or Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease in his junior year. 

Londer, a brother of Sigma Alpha Mu, spent time volunteering to help people with disabilities last year. He was diagnosed with the disease last October. Shortly after, 30 active members of the fraternity rallied behind him and worked to raise money to help fight his condition.  

CJD degenerates the brain and shuts down the body. According to Rimler, the family is trying to raise enough money to try an experimental drug treatment in England for Londer, but  it costs $10,000 for each treatment.

“What’s really tragic about this disease is that there’s no cure for it,” Rimler said. “It’s extremely rare. It’s so rare that this student, Brandon, had a one in 6.7 billion, not million, billion chance ... It’s likely that no one else in the world at his age has this disease.”

According to Rimler, the disease usually presents itself in older people and is very rare with only a hundred or so cases worldwide.

“As a Rabbi, it’s really just something that hits a man at his core,” Rimler said. “Because of all that’s going on, there are many efforts to raise money. Sammy (Sigma Alpha Mu) has arranged fundraisers. What I’m doing is running a marathon.”

Rimler said he believed that the half-marathon was a wonderful way to spread awareness about CJD, so that people could donate to the cause.

“At ASU, it’s our responsibility to storm the heavens, to really get this story out there,” Rimler said. “Here at ASU, we have to care for one of our own.”

Greg Haft, a public health policy and administration graduate student, said he heard of Londer through Rimler. He had never even met him when he decided to run.

“I figured there was something I could do to make a difference,” Haft said.

They both trained together starting in November 2016. He said even when they were both traveling over winter break, they kept each other accountable.

“We were always making sure that we were staying on task,” Haft said. “Whenever one of us was not feeling motivated, we just thought of Brandon and that kept us going.”

After the race, Haft talked about the challenges and rewards of running the half-marathon.

“I’m feeling like a champion,” Haft said, holding a medal in his hands. “At six miles, I thought about quitting, then I thought, ‘What if Brandon quits?’ So then I realized I can’t quit because Brandon’s not quitting. We have to keep fighting this. We gotta beat this thing just like we’re going to beat CJD.”

Rimler said it was easier than expected, and he cruised most of the way.

“I think the purpose, the mission, of why we were running was really powering me through,” Rimler said. “It really felt like any struggles or challenges we were going through was nothing in comparison to our fellow ASU student. Every mile is for him.”

Schmuel Tiectel, the director of Chabad at ASU, came out to the race to cheer the two men on.

“At Chabad, we want to be there for the need of every single individual,” Tiectel said. “Brandon is an ASU student. It’s an immense challenge. I cannot even imagine the pain and challenges for him and his family.”

He commended both Rimler and Haft on making it to the finish line.

“Myself and all of Chabad at ASU, we are very inspired by Rimler and Greg Haft in their spreading awareness of CJD and to help raise money,” Tiectel said. “We’re praying for Brandon’s miraculous recovery. Really inspired.”

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