Faye Simon-Harac wanted to do something special for her parents, Dr. Eric Simon and Irene Simon, so she founded the Irene & Eric Brain Research Foundation in 2004. Her father discovered opioid receptors in the brain, and both were very interested neurosurgery. Over the years, the foundation has blossomed steadfast to its mission to help advance research and education in brain research, that will help find answers to addiction, pain and other diseases and conditions of the human brain, such as Alzheimer's Disease, schizophrenia and aging.
“Our main program is the Summer Student Fellowship Program,” Simon-Harac said. “We started by giving two in 2005 and as of this summer we will have given 120 summer fellowships.”
The fellowship program allows brilliant undergraduate and first-year grad or med students, to be mentored full time in a top-notch US lab for the summer. Neuroscientist mentors have included three Nobel Prize and other award winners, and heads of departments of prestigious universities.
“Our hope is that these students will add to the work of the senior scientists towards cures for serious brain diseases and conditions,” Simon-Harac said. “The fellowship program is supported by our our three annual events: a golf outing and dinner, a fall dinner and the upcoming Endorphin plus donations (often in honor or in memory) from individuals and businesses.”
For a $2500 tax deductible donation, individuals, families, businesses can attach a name of a person or business to a fellowship and indicate the area/disease to which they prefer the donation to be earmarked.Since Eric Simon discovered opioid receptors in the brain, he coined the word “endorphin,” thus the foundation calls its race the Endorphin 5K.
At the fall dinner, on Nov. 2, Dr. Simon's 95th birthday will be celebrated. Some of the fellows and their neuroscientist mentors attend and share about their summer experience and research.
“Guests have told me at that event after hearing from the brilliant student fellows and neuroscientists, 'I see where the money is going' and 'This gives me hope for the future.'”
“Having grown up as the daughter of a neuroscientist, I learned how important brain research is and how difficult it is for many researchers to get the funding they need,” Simon-Harac said. “This inspired by my Dad’s passion for the field and learning how much research funding has lessened since his 50 years of being funded, I got the idea for the foundation. It seemed very appropriate to include my mom, Irene’s name in the title because: they were incredibly bonded, totally in love and had the most amazing deep, loving marriage. Plus, Irene, although she was not a scientist, listened every day to what happened in the lab, went to the scientific conferences with Eric, and actually did the treasurer duties, when he had the title of treasurer for the INRC. She was truly supportive and encouraged Eric in his career.”
The Foundation was announced April 2004 as a surprise to Irene and Eric.Irene Ronis Simon, passed away at the age of 92 in 2017 surrounded by her loving family.
The Endrophin 5K got its start at the Skylands Baseball Stadium which was then in the process of being sold. The foundation found that Wild West City would be a great venue for the event, and it was held there for the next six years. This year will be the race's second year at Kittatinny Valley State Park.
“The reason for the move to the park was that it is more affordable,” Simon-Harac said. “We were also ready for something new and the park allows us to have vendors and activities and nor rush to vacate by any specific time.”
The race started with 110 participants, and its largest was about 300 runners and walkers plus spectators and volunteers.“At this location we have vendor tables and activities and food grilled by Augie's Brooklyn Bagels, Deli & Catering,” she said. The race features individual and team prizes and door prizes.