Color run for colon cancer research returns to Chester Academy

Student Wasil Ahmed makes mother proud with Ivy League acceptance: Registration for May 20 run/walk is open now

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  • Principal Denis Petrilak and Wasil Ahmed last year

  • Monali Sinha and Taqdees Ahmed, Wasil's mother, at last year's run

  • Jack Westbrook loved the color gauntlet so much, he went through it several times at last year's run (Photo by Ginny Privitar)

By Ginny Privitar

— This year's Hearts of Hope 5K Color Run/Walk, the brainchild of a student to honor his mother undergoing treatment for colon cancer, will return for a second year to the Chester Academy on Saturday, May 20.

Wasil Ahmed, a Chester Academy senior, said his mother, Taqdees, is still undergoing treatment for colon cancer.

Wasil was inspired to start the run/walk to raise money for research. His mother was undergoing chemotherapy and in great pain when he got the idea for the first run last year.

He and his sister, Adeenah, asked if they could get her anything.

"She lied and said, ‘No I’m fine,'" he said. "But what she did say was, ‘As long as I’m here I want to see you both working as hard you can to be successful.’ She could have asked for anything and we would have given it. Even in her time of extreme pain she was still looking out for us; she wasn’t even worried about herself.”

Scaling the ivy towerThat was a defining moment for the brother and siter, both committed to hard work. Adeenah is in her second year at SUNY Binghamton, majoring in neuroscience, and Wasil is off to an ivy-league college. Talk about making your mom proud.

"I was basically hanging out with the guys and got an email from Harvard," he said.

Wasil wasn't expecting an acceptance, so he thought, "I'll just open it and get it over with."

To his surprise, he was on the wait list.

"Just to even be waitlisted by Harvard is such an honor," he said.

His friends were all yelling and jumping around out of happiness for him, he said.

"I just started crying, thinking how much I wanted it for my mom," said Wasil, ever mindful of her happiness. "That promise I made her," to work hard.

He needed to adjust to his good fortune, which was about to get better.

"I went outside," he said. "I wanted to take in and live the moment, get a breath and clear my mind. Then I got another email notification on my phone."

This one was from Yale.

"This one's definitely got to be a denial or rejection," Wasil said of his thoughts.

There was a play button and he figured he'd see a video of a "lady from Yale at a desk consoling me."

Instead, he heard classical music and a cappela singing. Then the word "Congratulations" popped up on his phone, followed by an acceptance letter from Yale.

Wasil said his knees gave out, and he dropped to the ground.

"I got up and went inside and the guys saw me running in, in a panic, and tears started flooding," he said.

He thought it was a dream.

"I was crying, and couldn't talk and the guys grabbed my phone and then they were really yelling," he said.

His friend Rob reassured him they were here in the present and it was all real. Everything he had promised his mom was coming true.

Wasil went home and told his mom he was going to Yale. Her face was transformed.

"All the life my mom had lost in the last five years," Wasil said. "I promise you she got it all back in one sentence."

Wasil wants to go on to medical school, so he's looking at a full slate of biology classes in college. But he may study math or chemistry as well.

"I was thrilled," Wasil said. "I was accepted in my dream school, Yale."

He said he said his dreams become real.

"When you have a vision and work for years and years, to see that vision become reality, it's just the most gorgeous moment," he said.

Register for color runRegistration for the color run/walk is from 8 a.m. to 8:45 a.m. on May 20, and the actual run/walk begins at 9 a.m. All proceeds go to colon cancer research.

If you pre-register online before May 1, registration is $20; from May 1, on, it's $25. Registration forms and additional information can be found online at

The deadline to insure registrants receive an official race T-shirt is May 1 and organizers expect to give them out to the first 100 registrants.

Online registration is preferred, so organizers know how much colored powder and other supplies to order.

This is a fun and colorful event. At the finish line, participants are doused with colored powders.

This year the event is sponsored by the Chester Academy Chapter of the National Honor Society, of which Wasil is a member. Last year the event was sponsored through the Kiwanis Key Club. Wasil is the president and said he is "beyond grateful for what the club has done for him."

Organizers hope the community will respond by participating, volunteering or making a donation to colon cancer research. Business can help by sponsoring the event.

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