Erin Yodice’s father couldn’t be by her side on her wedding day two weeks ago.
Her dad, Eric Yodice, was killed by a drunken driver in Woodhaven, Queens, in February 1987, when she was just 3.
Instead, the bride walked down the aisle with a picture of him and her together. The picture was placed in a pendant and affixed to her bouquet.
Yes, you read that correctly.
“About 10 are set to run. Three are expected to do the whole 70 miles,” Taveras said during breakfast at the Village Idiot Sunday morning, about 30 minutes before the group took off at 9 a.m.
The event is raising money tor Mothers Against Drunk Driving.
Click here to learn more and to donate.
Taveras, a physical therapist at Fusion Rehabilitation & Wellness in Patchogue, who also co-owns Infiniti Performance in Bellport, said he came up with the plan for the run about two weeks ago, immediately after the wedding.
That’s when he started talking with his wife about it, and creating a logo and raising money.
The goal was to raise $2,000 for MADD. The couple and their friends and family have so far raised $4,000.
The two runners expected to finish alongside Taveras are Chris Costello and Ross Montgomery, who are fellow trainers and physical therapists.
“We’re ultra-competitive in my industry,” Taveras explained. “We’re always trying to find the next thing to one-up each other on. So I put two and two together. That competitive edge, that volition to want to run and enjoy it. And then, with my wife and her background with her father, I said, this is a great event for a fundraiser.”
Yodice-Taveras, who also participated in the event, said she would be running 10 miles, which is the most she’s ever run.
As for the MADD group, she said there’s two aspects of it, one of which most people are unfamiliar with.
There’s the outreach and advocacy component, she said, which visits schools to deter drunken driving and lobbies for tougher laws against repeat offenders, for example — then there’s the support for surviving families.
“They have 24-hour hotlines for victims to call anytime they need,” she explained. “You can go to any of the difference offices for meetings, where you’re in a group with other people who were affected by drunk drivers. And they tell each other their stories and share.”
She said some people in the groups will have lost someone decades ago, like with her dad, who was a postal worker heavily involved in his community. Then there are others who might have just experienced such a tragedy a couple days before.
“And they’re wondering how they’re going to get through the next week or two,” she said.
Village Idiot and The Sloppy Tuna, as well as Fusion and Infiniti are the chief sponsors of the fundraiser. The two restaurants and bars were chosen because, Taveras said, each has taken steps to combat drunken driving.
He said he also hopes this is the first of many annual Patchogue-to-Montauk runs for MADD.
As for the logistics, the runners going the full length will be picked up by family and friends in cars Sunday night to find a place to sleep. They’ll then be dropped off early Monday in that same location to complete the challenge.
“I definitely expect some chaffing and some soreness going on,” he said. “Some cramping, As long as our nutrition is on point and we don’t ignore the hydration aspects, I feel like physically we’ll be fine.”
The mental component is more of a worry.
“That’s why it’s always better to do things with a group,” he said. “I know I’m going to fall upon my buddy, Chris, because I’m a hyper guy and he’s a very level guy. So, I know he’s gong to create some balance for me, where I know I need to calm and pace myself, he’ll be there. And I’ll be the motivating guy when someone’s hurting.”
For his part, Chris Costello said he was entirely confident the three would make it to Montauk.
“We’ll finish,” Costello said. “It’s just how we’re going to feel when we’re finished.”
“This is a tough run,” Taveras added. “But we’re trying to be tougher than the run. Like I wrote on our post, when everything’s breaking down mentally and physically, I’m going to seek counsel in Eric Yodice.
“And I feel that his spirit will guide us to the finish line.”
Update: Only Russel Taveras made it to Montauk Monday.
Top photo: Physical trainer Russell Taveras (far left) and his wife, Erin Yodice-Taveras, along with other runners outside Village Idiot Pub in Patchogue Saturday morning.