We met Daniel Laitman and his parents Ann and Rob in the September 2010 issue of eNews from NARSAD. Daniel is 19 and lives with schizophrenia.
[Update: Support Team Daniel as they run in the 2012 Disney World Half Marathon on January 8-9: http://bbrfoundation.org/events/teamdaniel]
He is studying film at a community college near his home in suburban New York. This semester Daniel is taking classes on theater, screen writing, biology and swimming. "This is a dream schedule," he said. Daniel continues to pursue an interest in stand-up comedy and is looking forward to an internship at Gotham Comedy Club in New York City this summer where he'll teach 10-18-year-olds about comedy.
Earlier this month, Daniel, his father Rob, his sister Hannah and his cousin Joey ran in the Walt Disney World 1/2 Marathon in Orlando, Florida. This is Daniel's third half-marathon and was quite an accomplishment because he was ill with pneumonia just before the race. "But he recovered quickly," his mother said. "And he really wanted to do it."
Running is part of Daniel's treatment regimen. Exercise is how Daniel offsets the side effects of increased appetite and weight gain from the drug Clozaril (Clozapine), which he takes to treat his schizophrenia.
This year's half-marathon came with a special twist: Ann and Rob Laitman decided to turn the run into an opportunity to raise funds for NARSAD research.
"My husband had raised money running for charity before," Ann said. "We thought that since the kids and Rob were running we'd put the race to good use. We donated to NARSAD in the past and wanted to do more."
The Laitmans were inspired by the fundraising efforts of others. "We've received requests from friends and family to support different causes, and NARSAD is a cause we feel strongly about," Ann said. "Daniel is doing well, but there's got to be something better. The drugs that treat schizophrenia allow you to live your life, but not a normal life."
"Team Daniel" was formed and the Laitmans turned to their friends and family with a personal appeal letter to support their cause along with a link to the eNews from NARSAD featuring Daniel's story. One of Daniel's friends designed the Team Daniel logo for T-shirts the team wore during the marathon and gave as gifts to friends and family that made donations. Their initial fundraising goal was $10,000. To date, the Laitmans have raised $14,000.
"We got a really nice response from people," Ann said. "We were very happy with it."
Ann emphasized the importance of supporting mental health research. Mental illness will affect 1-in-4 people in the United States this year. "You can say you don't know anyone who is affected, but you do," Ann said. "It's not a tough thing to write a letter to people and say, NARSAD research is important to me. You're donation could go to a researcher who will make a difference."
Daniel and his team have a lot to celebrate. In addition to having a successful fundraiser, Daniel finished the half-marathon in his best time yet: Two hours, 30 minutes.