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Little Neck woman to cross Island for boy

Last year Hart, 42, ran the length of Long Island from Montauk Point to Floral Park in 36 hours to raise money for...

By Kathianne Boniello

Janet Hart has her own unique place in local history books, and later this month the Little Neck mother of two is about to repeat herself.

Last year Hart, 42, ran the length of Long Island from Montauk Point to Floral Park in 36 hours to raise money for a young girl stricken with leukemia.

On March 31 Hart was slated to do it again, this time upping the ante and running from Orient Point to Mineola in 24 hours to raise funds for a small boy also ill with leukemia.

The planned “Long Island Run for Brendan” marathon makes Hart the first woman — if not the first person — to run the length of Long Island from both the north and south forks.

“No woman has ever done this before,” she said during a recent interview. “And I might be the only person.

“It’s great to be the first,” she said.

But Hart, who underwent knee surgery in June, was more concerned with Brendan Kearns, the 3-year-old boy she was running for, than her history-making feat.

Brendan, who lived in Little Neck with his family until a recent move to Wantaugh, L.I., suffers from acute lymphoblastic leukemia and has been undergoing chemotherapy treatments since he was diagnosed last June, said John Kearns, his father.

The Kearns family was watching last year’s Little Neck-Douglaston Memorial Day Parade, Kearns said, when they noticed bruises on Brendan’s legs. John and his wife Christine learned of Brendan’s diagnosis the next day, he said.

“It was terrible,” said John Kearns. “It’s been a tough year.”

Despite his illness, Kearns said his son tries to remain active and loves sports and baseball.

When asked about Hart’s fund-raiser for Brendan, John Kearns said: “I wish I could get out there and do it with her. She’s got a lot of heart.”

In 2000 Hart ran for a young Long Island girl who in December underwent a life saving bone marrow replacement surgery.

The 2001 marathon was expected to follow the same pattern as last year, Hart said, with a support crew following her in a van during her journey and her ending the trip by running to a fund-raising party.

But Hart said it took a special sign for her to decide to run the 2001 marathon.

When she was first told about Brendan’s condition, Hart at first was hesitant to approach the family.

“I always have to have that sign,” she said.

Hart got her sign one afternoon as she rode her bike along Northern Boulevard toward Fort Totten in Bayside.

When she crested the hill near the Zion Episcopal Church, Hart said she saw Brendan Kearns’ grandmother. It was during that chance meeting that Hart asked if she could run for the boy.

This year’s fund-raiser will feature music and raffles and is being held by the Irish-American Center in Mineola, L.I., a group that has also formed a fund-raising committee to collect donations for Brendan.

“I’m going to continue to do it as long as I can,” said Hart of her marathon fund-raisers. “If I can do this to help, it’s just so good.”

This time around, though, Hart knows what she’s in for.

“I think this one is going to be harder to handle because it’s in 24 hours,” she said. “I know I’ll live on Coca-Cola and pretzels. It’s the blisters — that’s what I’m afraid of.”

Because such a marathon — 90 miles in 24 hours — is so punishing to the body, Hart, who is a member of the College Point Road Runners Club, said blisters could be the end of her run.

“Your legs are heavy, but the blisters can do you in,” she said.

Despite the difficulties, Hart credited both the loyal friends who will drive and run alongside her and the local merchants whom she said have generously supported the fund-raiser.

Hart said without her crew, friends David Hertz, Sharon Shea, Nancy Barthold and her brother Drew Kane, she could not do the run.

“Without these people I could never do it,” Hart said. “They’re the people who keep me going.”

Send donations to the Brendan Kearns Leukemia Fund to 42-06 Bell Blvd., PO Box PMB 239, Bayside NY 11361. For more information call either 516-248-5675 or 718-899-7233.

The Brendan Kearns fund-raiser was slated to be held Sunday, April 1 from 3 p.m. to 10 p.m. at the Irish-American Center at 297 Willis Ave. in Mineola. Admission is $20.

Reach reporter Kathianne Boniello by e-mail at Timesledgr@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 146.

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