Dunmoreans of the Month: Theo and Greg Zayac

By Steve Svetovich

Theo and Greg Zayac lost their three-month-old baby boy Jude to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) eight years ago. But since then, the Dunmore couple has worked ceaselessly to bring awareness to the tragedy that affects so many families.

The eighth annual “Jog for Jude,” held in memory of Jude Zayac, who suddenly and tragically passed away July 23, 2014, from SIDS, is the area’s only 5K race that raises awareness and funds for SIDS research. 

This year’s  race date is Saturday, April 23, at 6:30 pm., with a start at the Dunmore Community Center, 1414 Monroe Ave., Dunmore.

“To celebrate our return to a live in-person event,” said Theo Zayac, “we switched things up this year. This year’s race will be an evening run on Saturday, April 23, capped off by celebratory fireworks.”

The overall male and female champions will receive trophies and prizes. Medals will be awarded to the top male and female finishers in age groups ranging from 6-7 to 60 plus.

It is a rain or shine event. All registrations are final and non-refundable. The race contact is jamesmccormick jr@gmail.com.

This year’s “Jog for Jude” is the first in-person race since 2019. The last two races were held virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Day of registration will be available beginning at 5 p.m,

The mission of the Jude Zayac Foundation is to raise funds to support SIDS research and to enrich the lives of living children in our community in honor of Greg and Theo’s late infant son Jude.

“As always,” said Theo Zayac, “proceeds from the event will benefit Robert’s Program at Boston Children’s Hospital and the Saint Joseph’s Center Baby and Children’s Pantry. Two-thirds of the funds go to the Boston Children’s Hospital and one-third go to the Saint Joseph’s Center Baby Pantry.

A recent photo of the Zayacs shows from left: Theo, Matilda, Greg with Gus on his shoulders, and Gregory.

“This is a very positive thing to raise awareness and do research.

“We raised $1,000 our first year and try to double it each year. My husband’s goal is to have a total of a million dollars raised for this foundation by the tenth year.”

Prior to this year’s event, the Jude Zayac Foundation donated over $650,000 to worthy causes. There is now a named fund in Jude’s memory at Boston’s Children’s Hospital. The fund is called the Jude Theodore Zayac Fund.

Race Day is also the late Jude’s eighth birthday.

There will be refreshments, entertainment, raffles and special surprises at the event.

Supporters can register for the race at: www.runsignup.com/jogforjude. The Jude Zayac Foundation can be followed on Facebook and Instagram (@judezayacfoundation) for ways to receive the most up to date information about events and efforts in the fight against SIDS.

Greg and Theo Zayac are committed to ensuring no more children share the same fate as their infant son. “The Jude Zayac Foundation,” said Theo, “raises funds to support SIDS research and provide enrichment to children living in our community–all in loving memory of sweet baby Jude.”

Theo said research continues to raise increased awareness on SIDS. “In 2010,” she said, “a study from the Boston Children’s Hospital concluded there may be a link between brain stem abnormalities and serotonin deficiencies and SIDS. More studies like this need to be conducted to develop this theory and help find a way to detect SIDS before it kills more healthy babies.

“We are asking you to continue to honor our son, Jude, to stop SIDS in its tracks before it takes another life, and to enrich the lives of Jude’s would-be-friends and classmates.

“We hope to truly make a difference on behalf of our son.”

The Zayac couple have three children: Gregory, 11, and Matilda, 6, both students at Dunmore Elementary Center; and Gus, 4, a student at Saint Clare’s preschool in Green Ridge. The close-knit family keeps Jude in their heart always and forever.

Click this link to register for the 5K race or 1 mile jog/walk: runsignup.com/jogforjude.

Dunmoreans of the Month: Theo and Greg Zayac

Dunmoreans of monthBy Steve Svetovich

Theo and Greg Zayac are Dunmoreans who are truly out to save the world, or at least the tiniest part of it in the form of young infants.

Their ambition is fueled by a cruel tragedy — the death of their healthy three-month-old infant son Jude on July 23, 2014, as a result of S.I.D.S (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome).

While other parents might be destroyed by such a loss, the grieving young couple instead vowed to make sense out of the tragedy and to make a positive impact in the name of Jude.

When friends set up a Go Fund Me account in the days following Jude’s death, both Theo and Greg knew they did not want to use the money for themselves, but that they wanted to start a foundation in their son’s name. They spent the next six months learning about S.I.D.S and about which hospitals were in the forefront of research. They were saddened to discover that S.I.D.S. is the leading cause of  death in children under one year of age, amounting to approximately 4,000 deaths each year.

Known as the silent killer, since victims pass away in their sleep, S.I.D.S. strikes without notice. Not much is known about its causes, although a study at Boston Children’s Hospital in 2010 concluded that there may be a link between brainstem abnormalities and serotonin deficiencies and S.I.D.S.

“More studies like this need to be conducted to develop this theory and to find a way to detect S.I.D.S. before it kills more healthy babies, like our sweet Jude,” Theo says.

Greg and Theo  believe that Boston Children’s Hospital is the premiere research center for S.I.D.S., making the biggest breakthroughs to help understand and prevent the syndrome, and they decided to raise fund for that research..

Dunmorean of the Month - Jog-for-Jude-2016-52-of-268-768x512“This became a huge part of our coping process, especially for my husband,” explains Theo. “We found that we could put our energy into raising monies to find the causes of S.I.D.S and help other parents avoid a devastating loss like ours. It was a positive way to focus our energy and emotions It has become our mission.”

After doing the research and establishing the Jude Zayac Foundation, the couple settled on the idea of sponsoring a “Jog for Jude”. This simple idea has grown into an event that draws thousands from the community and far beyond to raise both funds and awareness for SIDS research. This year’s fourth annual event will be held on Sunday, April 22, at Dunmore Community Center, 1414 Monroe Ave., Dunmore.

Although the race is the signature event, the family pursues awareness events and fund-raising all year round, including the Blue and Pink Day held in March.

It is very much a family affair, spearheaded by Theo and Greg, with the wholehearted support of their parents, John and Florence Lawless and Ted and Kim Zayac, all of Dunmore. Even their older son, Gregory, now age 7, became involved from the beginning, as have the latest additions to the Zayac’s family–Matilda, 2, and Gus, 9 months.

Dunmorean of the Month - Jude ZayacAlso on board from the start were their siblings, aunts and uncles, cousins, nieces and nephews, and many family friends. For instance, Kevin Hayes is in charge of development; Matt Swartz, finance; Ted Zayac, logistics; Cara McCormick and Florence Lawless, entertainment; Mariclare Hayes and Steve Zayak, awareness; Shamus McCormick, race operations; Linda Speicher and Kim Zayac, volunteers, and Bryan Zayac, recognition.

Their efforts and those of volunteers (370 assisted with the last year’s  Jog for Jude), attracted 2,121 participants in 2017, with $108,496 raised. They expect even higher numbers this year.

Jog for Jude features the area’s only 5K race raising awareness and funds for S.I.D.S. research, as well as a 1 Mile Fun Walk. Pricing for participation is age-based, and various other activities including basket raffles and activities for children are featured.

For more information, visit  www.runsignup.com/Race/PA/Dunmore/JogforJude.

Annual Jog For Jude Race Scheduled for Sunday, April 23rd

Jog for Jude 2017 (2)Runners will lace up their sneakers and compete in the third annual “Jog for Jude” 5K run/walk on April 23 at the Dunmore Community Center. Unlike traditional races, runners will not be competing against each other but collectively competing against a rare and horrible disease known as Sudden Infant Death Syndrome or SIDS.

SIDS is the number one cause of death in children under one year of age in the U.S. Over 4,000 lives are suddenly cut short each year due to SIDS; that equates to about one in every 2,000 children.

On July 23, 2014, the terrible disease took the  life of a 3-month old Jude Zayac. In wake of his unexpected death, his parents, Greg and Theo Zayac of Dunmore, founded the Jude Zayac Foundation. The mission of Jude’s Foundation is to raise funds to support SIDS research and to enrich the lives of living children in the community.

Jog for Jude 2017 (1)The first “Jog for Jude” event was held on April 19, 2015, at the Dunmore Community Center. Since then, the foundation has raised over $167,000 and hosted over 3,000 runners/walkers with the help of hundreds of community volunteers.

The foundation has donated $110,000 to the Boston Children’s Hospital, which stands at the forefront of SIDS research. Also, it has donated $30,000 to St. Joseph’s Baby Pantry, which serves infants from families in need. This year’s event will again benefit the St. Joseph’s Baby Pantry.

The foundation hopes that members of the community will join it in the upcoming 5K run/walk and help it spread awareness and fight SIDS.