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The members of Team Wellness.

With the wear of 29 marathons etched into his running shoes, restaurateur Dennis McDermott has memories of great runs from all over the globe — posing for photos mid-race in a toga in Rome and glimpsing the Eiffel Tower in Paris.

But it’s the memory of crossing the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge in New York City’s first marathon following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 — and McDermott’s first marathon at age 40 — that still sends chills down his spine.

“I was there that morning (Sept. 11.) That whole day left a major impact on me,” recalled McDermott, who owns The Riverhead Project in downtown Riverhead. “I saw people holding hands, jumping out of the buildings.”

He described watching legions of people march uptown like a zombie horde as debris from the towers blanketed downtown. McDermott gathered up a few belongings, put his four cats into suitcases and left the city for his home in Southold that day.

Two months later he and thousands of runners tried to regain a bit of normalcy with the city’s annual marathon.

“It was the first chance the city had to exhale collectively,” he said of the 26.2-mile race. “It was the most amazing experience of my life. You were just electrified with the energy.

That’s why McDermott, who will be 53 when he crosses the Manhattan finish line for the third time this November, is running his 30th marathon overall in New York City — and for a good cause.

McDermott and a team of seven other local residents are running to raise more than $20,000 for Peconic Bay Medical Center.

Each member of the group, known as Team Wellness, will raise at least $2,500 for the Riverhead hospital, though some have already exceeded that goal. The money will go toward initiatives like the employee wellness Biggest Winner competition, addressing obesity, diabetes and stroke prevention and Palliative Care.

“Instead of raising money for the American Cancer Society or other worthy national causes, I’d rather do something that is closer to home,” said McDermott, who moved to Southold full time and opened The Frisky Oyster in Greenport after 9/11. “It’s going to have a huge impact on a local, small hospital.”

The other seven members of the team are Mary Mitchell, wife of hospital CEO Andy Mitchell, Southold Town police officer Ryan Springer, orthopedic surgeon Dr. Eric Manoff and PBMC employees Paul Furbeck, Anna Law, Jennifer Miglino and Jennifer Robbins.

“It’s about promoting a healthy lifestyle,” said hospital spokesman Demetrios Kadenas. “They’re running to be healthy, but they’re also running on behalf of PBMC, which is a pillar of health in the community. They’re all from the community and it’s important that they’re running for our hospital.”

Click here to make a donation to a member of Team Wellness.

Dennis McDermott running the Rome Marathon.
Dennis McDermott running the Rome Marathon.