Running For Hope

JOHNSTOWN – A set of city twins could have sat around home earlier this year, lived in comfort and done the normal things 8-year-old children do.

Instead, Christopher and Giana-Marie Murphy decided to help a sick friend of their family. The result was $3,000 raised for his medical needs.

The Murphy children each ran 100 miles over two months to raise money for Fulton County Sheriff’s Department Capt. Garth Hillier. The twins presented the officer – who is battling cancer – with a $3,000 check Thursday night at his Wells Street home.

“I’m very humbled by the fact the Murphy kids chose me for a fundraising project,” Hillier said.

According to the twins’ mother, Ann Marie Murphy, the original plan was to have the children raise about $500. But that figure ballooned after they started their effort on Feb. 14. The twins decided to have a fundraiser for Hillier, who is a friend of their uncle Peter O’Lucci.

Recording their miles, the children started on a treadmill in their Pleasant Avenue basement. Giana-Marie started with an impediment – she had broken her collarbone skiing. Mrs. Murphy said that when the weather started to get better in March, her children transitioned to actual outdoor running in Johnstown.

“They would try running from their house to Knox,” said their mom, a second-grade teacher in the Canajoharie Central School District.

Inspired by others who had done fundraising and by the watching the movie “Little Red Wagon,” the Murphy kids pressed on. Meanwhile, the money raised kept rolling in until they had collected $3,000. The children, who are in third grade at East Hill Elementary School in Canajoharie, received sponsor donations from various people, such as in school, and from coaches, neighbors, relatives and business owners.

Christopher Murphy stopped running April 14 and his sister stopped April 17.

“It was just amazing with the community,” their mother said.

Both her children answered “yeah,” when asked this week if they enjoyed their fundraising experience. They said they would do it again.

“We did it with my mom and dad,” said Giana Marie.

Christopher added, “I got to run both indoors and outdoors.”

East Hill Elementary School teacher Jennifer Schwabrow said of the Murphy children’s fundraising effort: “I believe it is commendable that Christopher and Giana have taken this on and completed such a wonderful act of kindness on their own.”

Hillier, who served several years as supervisor of the county’s 911 Communications Center, said he was diagnosed with lymphoma in January. He has been a patient at Albany Medical Center for what he termed a “very aggressive” type of blood cancer.

The captain said he has worked closely with his oncologist and has had a steady chemotherapy regimen.

“The treatment plan is working,” Hillier said. “Remission is on the horizon.”

If all goes well, he hopes to receive a bone marrow transplant at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston.

Hillier said he is “overwhelmed” not only by the fundraiser done by the Murphy children, but also other area fundraising that has been done for his benefit. He said the residents of Fulton County have a huge heart and always rally around those in need.

“This is what community is all about,” he stated.

Lorey said Hiller, who started his county service in August 1985, is currently on sick leave. He hopes he comes back soon.

“Certainly, he’s a valuable asset,” the sheriff said. “We’re struggling to get along without him.”

Michael Anich covers Johnstown and Fulton County news. He can be reached at