Heartfelt causes are fueling their Marathon runs

Area residents aiding charities by running in Monday’s Boston Marathon include (from left) Norton couple James Davis and Jeff Pransky, and Hanover’s Yeemay Su Miller, surrounded by teammates near the starting line in 2011.
Area residents aiding charities by running in Monday’s Boston Marathon include (from left) Norton couple James Davis and Jeff Pransky, and Hanover’s Yeemay Su Miller, surrounded by teammates near the starting line in 2011.

Many participants in Monday’s 117th running of the Boston Marathon are competitors, anxious to finish the 26.2-mile race from Hopkinton to Boston as quickly as possible. But others are running for an entirely different reason: to raise

From left, Nicole Ogin, Patrick McMahon, Yeemay Su Miller, Caitlin Egan and Kelly Buckley at start of 2011 Boston Marathon. They were running for GoKids Boston.

money and awareness for a charity or cause near to their hearts.

James Davis and Jeff Pransky are a married couple from Norton running for the Massachusetts Down Syndrome Congress, a Burlington-based advocacy and support group, in honor of Davis’s sister, Christy, who had Down syndrome and died in 2011.


“We run in her memory, because she can’t run anymore,” said Davis, 42, who works for an event marketing company. “It was a personal idea to give back to other families facing those years growing up, who need the support the MDSC gives.”

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Part of that support is helping families cope with “getting long stares from people in public,” he said. “I didn’t know how to deal with that. The MDSC work is incredibly important — they’ve changed the way people view folks with Down syndrome.”

His sister “was very pure, a sweet, loving, always happy person who just wanted to be included and paid attention to,” Davis said. “She had an infectious smile that would light up a room.”

This is his second Boston Marathon, and the first for Pransky, Davis said.

“Jeff’s more into overall fitness — he runs, but distance running is not his thing,” Davis

Eric Alexander, former Patriot linebacker, running marathon April 15 for New England Patriots Charitable Foundation.

said. “He doesn’t like the cold, and training in winter was a significant deterrent, but I said, ‘You wanted to do this your whole life; you’re 50 now, so suck it up.’ He finally agreed.”

Davis wasn’t a runner himself until 2008, he said, and when he started, “I thought someone would have to call the ambulance that first mile. But you stick with it, keep building on it.”

He and Pransky are running as part of Team MDSC, which aims to raise $10,000. For information, visit www.crowd­

Kerry Walker of Hanson is part of “the Fab 5,” a group of friends in their 30s running for the Michael Carter Lisnow Respite Center in Hopkinton, which provides support for people with disabilities and their families. She heard of the center through a client of the ad agency where she works.

“It’s the first marathon for three of us, and my second,” Walker said. “It’s definitely not going to be easy, but we all agreed it’s for a really good cause. All but one of us are parents, and the center helps so many families. It’s a smaller charity, and a little more personal for us knowing every dollar we raise goes to the center.”


The others in the group are Jenn Richardson of Pembroke, Brian Lang of Braintree, Jeff Wright of Canton, and Jenna Gomes of Hanson. The squad hopes to raise $20,000. For information on their fund-raising effort, visit

Hanover resident Yeemay Su Miller said she’s blessed with “good health and

The Fab 5 team running marathon for Michael Carter Lisnow respite Center, from left Jenna Gomes of Hanson Jeff Wright of Canton, Brian Lang,of Braintree, Kerry Walker of Hanson, Jenn Richardson of Pembroke.

two strong legs,” so she’s running on a team for the South Boston Neighborhood House, which provides help for those facing hard economic times. The 44-year-old nutrition consultant has run two other marathons, both for GoKids Boston at the University of Massachusetts Boston, which fights childhood obesity.

“I’ve always had a heart for less fortunate people; I’ve worked in community health centers, and a lot of what drives me is that I’m healthy and can do something to help others,” she said. “The South Boston Neighborhood House is great — it’s for people like struggling single mothers trying to find safe housing to elderly people who’ve lost a spouse. They’re there for everyone.”

She wasn’t a runner until she turned 40, she said, adding, “I always thought running was a purely unfun form of exercise. But once I became part of a team and trained together with them for a great mission, it changed me.”

Each member of Miller’s nine-person team wants to raise $5,000 . For information on her cause, visit www.crowd­

There are 27 area communities represented on the Dana-Farber Marathon Challenge team, which has more than 500 runners and a goal to raise $4.6 million for the Boston institute’s Claudia Adams Barr Program in Innovative Basic Cancer Research.

Melissa Bowers, 34, of Middleborough, is on the team, running as a survivor. She was diagnosed with cervical cancer while pregnant at age 26 with her third child. She is now cancer free, and running to support a friend who was diagnosed with cancer in November.

She had to wait until six months after having her third child to undergo surgery, and then went through six months of chemotherapy. The hardest part, she said, was learning she could have no more children.

“Already being a mom of three healthy children was a blessing enough, but when that decision is made for you it makes it a whole new feeling,” Bowers said. “It took some time to adjust to the fact that I would not ever have children again. I hope my children never have to experience what having cancer does to you physically and mentally.”

For more information on the Dana-Farber effort, visit

Eric Alexander is probably a familiar name to New England Patriots fans. The former linebacker is running for two reasons, he said: to raise money for the New England Patriots Charitable Foundation, and “to check ‘run a marathon’ off my bucket list.”

Alexander is part of the Patriots Marathon Team, which has already surpassed its goal of raising $150,000 for the Myra Kraft Community MVP Awards program, which provides grants to nonprofit groups. With more than 30 runners, the team is the largest in six years, and had reached nearly $210,000 as of last week. Area residents joining him on the roster are Patriots staff member Jeff Connors of Sharon, Mark Briggs of Foxborough, Meghan Dupras of East Bridgewater, Stephen Hurley of Scituate, Janeen Kardoos of Hingham, and Trisha Winton of Canton.

Alexander, who said playing for the Patriots taught him a lot about being a champion, said, “I also know the world needs volunteers and the people who are committed to helping others, our communities, our country, and our planet.”

For information on the Patriots cause, visit .

Heather (Rue) Cline, 38, of Canton, isn’t sure she’ll get through the Boston Marathon in less than “nine hours or 25 hours,” she said. But one thing is for sure, Cline said: She will get through it.

“Willpower and reason” will be fueling her first marathon, she said, which she is running to raise money for the America Liver Foundation in support of her son, Zachary Rue, 11, who was born with biliary atresia, a disease that will require a liver transplant before adulthood.

Though it’s her first time running for the foundation’s Run for Research team, it’s not the first time she and Zach have attended the Boston Marathon. Ten years ago, the foundation paired Tom Nealon of Miami with the boy, with Nealon and Zach vowing to raise more than $1 million, a goal reached last year after a decade of runs. Due to health reasons, Nealon has passed the running torch to Cline.

“It will take me a long time — I have fibromyalgia — and it’ll be tough getting used to outside breathing; it’s very different than inside on a treadmill,” Cline said. “But I’ll walk and run.”

In past years, Cline and Zach would usually stand at Mile 17 to cheer for Nealon as he ran past, and then go to the finish line to see him. This year, Nealon will be joining Zach on the sidelines, cheering for her, Cline said.

“Spectators are what keep runners motivated,” she said. “I’ll be walking, probably even at the start in Hopkinton, but it’s worth every minute, every dime. It’ll take all of me, but I’ll do it. And I intend to do it next year as well.”

For information on her cause, visit

Paul E. Kandarian can be reached at kandarian@