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Runners to honor Perillo in team race

Matt Perillo always went the extra mile for his friends and family. On July 4 they will return the favor.

A group of runners calling themselves Team Perillo will hit the pavement Thursday to run in memory of the late Western New York basketball and football official at the Lancaster/Depew Boys and Girls Club 10K.

The 36th annual event will cover a course throughout the village of Lancaster. The race begins at 9 a.m. and will start and finish in the business district. The event is part of The News runner of the year series.

Perillo’s friends, including Lancaster Councilman Ron Ruffino, are putting together a team which they hope will generate donations and solicit sponsorships to support the local Boys and Girls Club for which Perillo was a volunteer.

Ruffino said he thought of the idea while on a jog.

“The last time I ran this race was 2010. A few days after that I completely blew out my knee,” he said. “I contemplated running this event for the past few years and failed to attempt it. This year is different though. Matt defined courage and inspiration and it’s truly an honor for me to dedicate this run for him.”

Perillo, 48, died unexpectedly in his sleep the morning of June 6. Eighteen months earlier he had his feet amputated, the result of contracting septicemia, a bacterium in the blood that often occurs with severe infection. Doctors had given him only a 20 percent chance to live but he had been making stunning progress in his recovery.

He finally returned to his Lancaster home after 69 days in the hospital. Perillo and his wife, Karen, were married for 22 years. Karen described him as “the love of my life.” They had two daughters, Jillian, 19, and Hanna, 18.

It was in this race a year ago in which Perillo participated, showing his brute determination to recover from his ordeal. As the last runner in a special 100-person relay, he took the baton, lifted himself out of his wheelchair and walked across the line with the assist of crutches and wearing his new prosthetic legs.

Perillo, who was working for the Lancaster Recreation Department at the time of his death, officiated locally for 17 years. He was also deeply involved in his community and just last month was inducted into the Lancaster Youth Bureau Hall of Fame.

Openings remain for runners to join Team Perillo. Contact Sarah Ruffino at 912-5713. Donations can be sent to: 150 Pleasant Ave., Lancaster, N.Y. 14086.