WILDWOOD— Wildwood Middle School participated in the first Memorial Run-A-Thon on Thursday, May 21, to honor sixth grade teacher Tom Gebbia, who died suddenly in June 2014. He was 36.
Plans are to make it an annual event.
Gebbia worked in the district for three years as a technology, science, social students and language arts teacher. Although he wasn’t in the district for very long, he made a lasting impact on the students he taught because of his devotion and love of his profession, Tricia Lemma, a 6th grade teacher who helped organize the run said May 21.
“He was very dedicated to his students. He always went to work early, was late to leave, and eager to volunteer his time to help the students,” Lemma said.
Perhaps it was because Gebbia, who was married a short time before his death, lived by one motto and he taught his students to do the same: “Nothing Less Than Your Best.”
The run was help inside due to the rain but organizers made a course throughout the school building and looped through the gym where spectators watched from the bleachers. Students ran or walked from 3:15 until 5 p.m., completing a loop. Their laps were counted as they passed. Some students ran 12 laps, others up to 43 laps, Lemma said.
“The most amazing thing about an event like this was how incredible the kids were and their drive to make the run-a-thon a success,” Lemma said.
In total, 73 students participated and each of them reiterated how amazing it was to honor their beloved teacher.
“I feel like Mr. Gebbia is still here with us,” student Jose Sanchez said.
The weeks leading up to the race, the kids signed up sponsors. The money raised by the students will be placed into a fund to provide a scholarship for a student that fulfills Gebbia’s motto. The week of May 25 students will collect the money which will go into the Tom Gebbia Memorial Scholarship Fund, Lemma said.
In addition to the run, the high school industrial arts class made a bench to commemorate Gebbia and it was presented at the run.
Student Shanajah Williams called the presentation of the bench really special and said it was wonderful to see how happy were Gebbia’s wife Nancy and his parents, who drove down from North Jersey to attend the event. She said the bench will show how Gebbia will always be with everyone at the middle school.
“He was a great man, who died too young,” Lemma said. “He really inspired students. He gave 100 percent and the kids rose to the occasion. I’m just happy we could honor him.”
Sponsors for the event were as follows: DJ Jason Mitchell, The Byrne Community Center Wildwood FMBA 50 Lunch with Lynch Foundation, Wildwood Education Association, North Wildwood Shirt Shop, Domino's Pizza, Zippy's Bike Shop, J. Lemma and Son Construction, West Wildwood Fire Company Morey's Pier, The Women of Wildwood, Garibaldis Restaurant, Lenape Mold & Tool, TLC Mechanical and the Anglesea Irish Society.