The Chicken Runs at Midnight

Friday, June 9, 2017

Come join us for this family fun event!! There will be a carnival like atmosphere with activities, food and entertainment.  Proceeds will support Babe’s Kids, Brooke Mulford & Sara Ann Kronrot!  Help the Canuso Foundation make a difference in their lives!

The registration for the Relay begin at 5:00 pm and the relay will begin at 6:00 pm. The registration for the 3K Run down Kings Highway will start at 9:00pm and the run will begin at 10:00 pm.

Activities will include: A New and Improved Kid’s Relay – each relay team will be segregated by grade and will compete with their peers in various relay races.  Prizes will be awarded to the winning teams.  There will be 8 interactive inflatable attractions for kids of all ages, face painting, food trucks and more!!

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Chicken Runs at Midnight

Hurry up and get your teams together!! The last Chicken Run had over two thousand participants and we hope to have the same turnout this year.  Proceeds will support Babe’s Kids, Brooke Mulford and Sara Ann Kronrot

Brooke Mulford is 13 years old has always been such a happy and tender hearted little girl, full of energy and a love for life.  She never complained about anything until Christmas Eve 2008 (age 4) when she started limping and complaining of pain in her leg.  She was misdiagnosed at a local hospital in Maryland with toxic synovitis.  Soon after she was unable to straighten her legs, the pain was unbearable and she started running a fever.  At the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) on January 5, 2009, Brooke was diagnosed with a very aggressive cancer, stage IV high risk neuroblastoma. The cancer had started in her right adrenal gland and had spread through pretty much every bone in her body and approximately 80% of her bone marrow.  Since that awful day, Brooke has had 8 rounds of Chemotherapy, 4 surgeries, 2 stem cell transplants, numerous bone marrow biopsies, blood and platelet transfusions, 12 days of radiation to her skull, both femurs and abdomen, and completed a grueling 6 month immunotherapy clinical trial (ch.14.18) in April 2010.

Brooke suffered significant high frequency hearing loss from her chemotherapy treatments and now requires hearing aids in both ears.  She is monitored closely for possible late effects from all her treatments. Throughout her almost 1 and ½ years of treatment at CHOP, Brooke never once complained about having to go to the hospital for treatments and actually enjoyed “sleepovers” and getting to see her amazing doctors, nurses and very special Child Life Specialist.  Brooke amazes her mom with her positive attitude, strength and joy as she continues to celebrate life every day!  She will always be her mom’s hero and her world.

Sara Ann Kronrot is also 13 years old and dubbed “Super Art Girl” by her classmates at Crescent Hill Academy in Pennsauken. She continues to prove she is a “miracle in every way”.  Sara Ann suffers from Severe Cerebral Palsy due to lack of oxygen at birth.  As a result, she is a spastic quadriplegic, unable to use her arms or legs, and unable to sit up or stand on her own.  She is g-tube fed and has to have secretions suctioned from her mouth every 15 minutes due to a weak swallow.  As of 2017, she has survived debilitating respiratory problems with well over 200 hospital stays since birth.  Undaunted, this child’s spirit is unflagging.  She stunned everyone by learning to move the tips of her fingers enabling her to write, draw and paint remarkable beautiful pictures in which she displays real talent.

Sara’s fierce “never give up” spirit was perhaps influenced by her parents who refuse to give up on her from the very beginning with the doctor’s gloomy prognosis that Sara Ann would be crippled with painful contractures, blind, deaf and unable to move or communicate.  As soon as Sara was released from the hospital, at only 2 months old, her daunting rehabilitation began.  After nearly 300 hyperbaric oxygen treatments during the first 3 years of her life and years of physical, occupational, speech, vision and swallowing therapy, Sara Ann has no contractures and complete range of motion in all limbs, speaks a tiny bit, communicates with simple hand signals, draws and paints!

Learn More about The Chicken Runs at Midnight and Rich Donnelly.

Chicken Runs at Midnight Story

When then-Pirates third base coach Rich Donnelly would crouch down, cup his hands and shout to the runner on second base, his daughter, Amy, once asked him, “Dad, what are you yelling to the runner, ‘The chicken runs at midnight’?” The statement had no origin, no specific meaning, yet became a buzz phrase in the Donnelly home, and among the Pirates. When Pittsburgh second baseman Jose Lind ran on the field before a game in 1992, a microphone caught him yelling to teammates, “Let’s go, the chicken runs at midnight!”

Amy Donnelly was diagnosed with a brain tumor in spring training 1992. She died nine months later at age 18. Four years later, the Marlins won the World Series, and it was third base coach Rich Donnelly who waved home Craig Counsell with the winning run in the 11th inning of Game 7. Counsell was nicknamed “The Chicken” in the Donnelly house because he flapped his left elbow as he got ready for the pitch to be delivered. As Counsell crossed the plate, and bedlam followed at Dolphin Stadium, Tim Donnelly, one of Amy’s younger brothers, looked at clock on the scoreboard. He screamed at his brother, Mike, who also was a bat boy that night. Then they screamed to their dad, Rich Donnelly.

“Dad, look at the time! Look at the time!”

Rich Donnelly looked at the scoreboard clock. It was midnight. The chicken runs at midnight.

“It’s a true story, you hear it and you can’t believe it happened, but it happened,” said Counsell, who is a utility infielder for Brewers 13 years after scoring the winning run in the ’97 Series. “I’ve said that someone should make a movie out of this story, that’s how amazing it is. Anyone who hears it is moved by it. I get chills every time I think about it.”

Amy Donnelly

John Canuso, a home builder in Philadelphia, was so inspired by this story, he called Rich Donnelly. Canuso had also lost a daughter, Babe, to cancer. Canuso was also very close to former Phillies coach John Vukovich, who died of cancer in 2007. Canuso runs the Canuso Foundation, a nonprofit organization that helps brighten the lives of children who are coping with cancer, other serious illnesses and disabilities. A division of the Canuso Foundation is called Babe’s Kids, named for his daughter. A fundraiser for 37 years, John Canuso started the first Ronald McDonald House in Philadelphia in 1974.

Canuso is now raising funds for a family with a child with leukemia in Haddonfield, N.J. On May 21, Haddonfield is going to close down the town for two hours and run relays for kids at 5 p.m., then a 3K race at midnight, starting at the Haddonfield Memorial High School football field, and finishing down Kings Highway, all to support 7-year-old Mia Strobel, who has leukemia. Canuso said $30,000 has been committed to Mia’s family.

The theme of the 3K run: The Chicken Runs At Midnight.

“Rich came to our town and told our kids the story at the high schools; he really inspired them,” Canuso said. “There has been a groundswell. The whole town has gotten involved.”

Canuso wasn’t certain how many runners would run May 21, but he estimated as many as 2,000.

“I am humbled; I am overwhelmed,” Donnelly said. “All these people who are running know the story. They’re not just running a race; they know why they’re running. It’s all because of John. I’ve never met anyone like him. He doesn’t have to do this. He’s a successful home builder. He put up $10,000 just to secure the police force. He’s a saint. He wants to help kids.”

The “chicken runs at midnight” story is known by many current and former major league players, including Nationals closer Matt Capps, Cardinals pitcher Brad Penny, Phillies outfielder Jayson Werth and Marlins pitcher Anibal Sanchez. No one knows it better than Counsell because he lived it. Counsell has shipped memorabilia, including a signed bat, to Canuso. He also sent a check that will be matched by the Major League Baseball Players Association.

“There is baseball in the story, but it’s not a baseball story,” Counsell said. “It’s about a family. It’s about a family going through tough times and bonding together. That’s one reason why people love baseball because it can connect them to other parts of their lives.”

Anibal Sanchez threw a no-hitter on Sept. 6, 2006. Exactly one year later, his son, Alan Sanchez, was born. But he died a few months later after contracting Dengue fever, an ailment common in the tropics, from a mosquito bite. Two years ago, Sanchez heard of “the chicken runs at midnight,” as part of a Lifetime channel segment about Amy that ran several years ago. Sanchez called Donnelly. Soon after, Sanchez was jogging before a game at Pittsburgh’s PNC Park at 8:30 a.m. Donnelly, then a coach with the Pirates, met Sanchez for the first time.

“I went up to him and said, ‘I’m Rich Donnelly,’ and he started crying,” Donnelly said. “He said that Amy’s story helped him and his wife with the loss of their son. It was cold and foggy that day, he took his shirt off and showed me a tattoo of his son on his right arm.”

Sanchez said he considered quitting baseball after the death of his son.

“Now when I go to the mound every time, my son is with me,” he said. “Watching that video of ‘The Chicken Runs At Midnight,’ and knowing the story, made me think that I’m not the only one who has been through this. It made me continue my career. When I talked to Rich about his daughter, it was like it had just happened yesterday. I get very emotional thinking about it now. I’ll never forget my son, but Amy’s story helped me get through.”

Amy Donnelly is buried in Arlington, Texas. On her tombstone is the inscription “The Chicken Runs at Midnight.” It has been 17 years since she died, and Rich Donnelly says he thinks about her every day. He was a major league coach for the Rangers, Marlins, Brewers, Dodgers and Pirates, as well as a minor league player and manager, for 42 years. He is looking for another job in baseball, preferably as a third base coach in the major leagues, or a college baseball coach, but as he waits, he does speaking engagements across the country. Many times, he recounts his beautiful daughter’s story of The Chicken Runs At Midnight. And a week from today, a town will close down and run a race at midnight for Amy, for 7-year-old Mia Strobel and for children all across the country who have serious illnesses.

“If Norman Rockwell was to paint America, he would paint Haddonfield; it is beautiful,” Donnelly said. “When those people line up to run at midnight …” his voice cracking, as it always does when he thinks about Amy … “it will be the greatest tribute ever to our Amy.”

 Indeed. The chicken runs at midnight.

-Tim Kurkjian is a senior writer for ESPN The Magazine. His book “Is This a Great Game, or What?” was published by St. Martin’s Press and became available in paperback in May 2008.

Babe’s Kids

Past Chicken Runs

Chicken Runs at Midnight 2015

May 1, 2015

Chicken Runs at Midnight 2014

May 2, 2014

Chicken Runs at Midnight 2013

May 4, 2013

Chicken Run 2011

March 3, 2011

Chicken Run 2010

May 7, 2010

Babe’s Bash Makes a Difference

Learn about the Canuso Foundation Innovation Award at CHOP.

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Babe’s Bash – A Night in Italy was a hit!  Thank you to everyone who helped make this night wildly successful.  This night would not have been possible without the generosity of our donors!