For Ferrara family, mud run means more than getting dirty

August 31, 2013

The original and largest mud run in the state of Delaware will take place Sunday, Sept. 22, in Middletown at Frightland, but to the Ferrara family, it will mean a lot more than running a race and getting dirty. Instead, it will be a sober reminder of the battle they waged against leukemia and a way for them to give hope to victims, families and doctors who face this disease.

Receiving the bad news

Nick and Denni Ferrara were faced in 1998 with the harsh reality that their 3 1/2-year-old daughter Natalia had been diagnosed with leukemia. All they could do was hope, pray and trust in the doctors to save her life and bring her back to health again. It would undoubtedly be a long and difficult journey, but they had no choice, so they dug in for the fight and put their trust in the man upstairs.

Road to recovery

For the next three years, doctors tried to cure Natalia using chemotherapy and radiation treatments which frequently made her sick, tired and unable to do the things normal girls her age could do. Natalia was in and out of the hospital and couldn’t go to school or play with friends because it was important not to expose her to germs while she was recovering. Only after about 2 1/2 years did she begin to feel better, and her life slowly returned to normal.

Turning tragedy into hope for others

After Natalia’s recovery her mother Denni began volunteering with leukemia organizations to try and give back and help others facing the same hardships her family had lived through. In 2007, she branched out on her own and established the Leukemia Research Organization of Delaware. This small organization was founded with the idea that 100 percent of the proceeds of annual fundraisers be used to fund blood cancer research. The first of these events were the Delaware Mud Run Junior and the original Delaware Mud Run.

The evolution of Delaware’s original mud run

The run started out as a 5K, but when a friend suggested the unique idea of changing it to a mud run, the Delaware Mud Run was born. The mud run was purposely designed to be run in teams of four, and members must start and finish together, symbolizing the support and cooperation families facing the disease will need to make it through difficult times. In just a few years, the race has grown into a huge event with 15,000 spectators, nearly 4,000 participants and has raised over $1 million to be used to fund leukemia research. This year’s race will include some different obstacles, a flyover, a costume contest, music by the Rockets and as always, a family friendly atmosphere.

Interested participants can go to and sign up now. The race is also looking for volunteers to help and spectators to cheer until every team crosses the finish line.

Author's note

On a personal note, I have had the privilege of training four members of the Ferrara clan - Natalia, Denni, Nicholas Jr. and Cross. I have attended events hosted by them to raise money for leukemia research, and I have seen how the disease has affected and brought them closer as a family. I also know how much hard work and dedication was put into this event and would urge anyone interested to attend and support this great cause. After all, the greatest way to kick mud in the eye of any terrible disease is to fight back through fitness.

  • Chris Antonio is a personal trainer and former world-class weightlifter. He has been lifting for more than 20 years and has trained a wide variety of clients ranging from All-American athletes to the average person trying to get into shape. To send a question to the Ask the Trainer column, email Chris at or check out

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