Marathoners who run for a cause vow to return
Jarrett Barrios, chief executive of the American Red Cross of Eastern Massachusetts, was blocks from the Boston Marathon finish line Monday when the bombs went off, prematurely ending the first Marathon he had ever attempted.
Jennie Sheridan had just completed her fifth Boston Marathon when chaos struck. Like Barrios, she was running to raise funds for an organization she values dearly, the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.
Another runner, Susan Hurley, headed a 200-runner team representing 18 charitable organizations. Collectively raising more than $1.3 million, her group was proud to support many small charities that depend on their legs and largesse. Without warning, they found themselves part of a major disaster scene.
On Tuesday, the three were among thousands of runners aligned with charities large and small — dozens of organizations expecting to reap more than $11 million from this year’s marathon — who found their efforts overshadowed by Monday’s tragedy and terror. The 35 organizations officially recognized by the Boston Athletic Association range from the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts to major medical-research organizations to the Boston Museum of Science.
Many of the fund-raising runners contacted yesterday, along with the organizations for which they raced, are vowing not to let Monday’s horrific events deter them from future Boston Marathons. If anything, their commitment to race again — and to raise even more money through sponsor pledges next year — seems stronger than ever.
“It hasn’t changed my thinking about participating,” said Sheridan, who personally raised more than $32,000 this year, after losing three siblings to cancer.
One of 550 Dana-Farber team members, who set a fund-raising goal of $4.6 million, Sheridan said the e-mails and Facebook postings that have poured in since Monday have shown her teammates’ “resolve [to participate] is even greater now.”
Barrios’s team of 39 runners raised more than $150,000 in its second year as a BAA charity.
“All the runners I’ve been in touch with are shaken, but proud of our participation,” Barrios, a former state senator, said. Because Red Cross volunteers at the finish line played a key role in the disaster response, “what you saw Monday was the Red Cross at its best.”
Hurley, who was in the finish-line chute when the bombs exploded, is still reaching out to her teammates. But, she said, “if you know anything about marathon runners, they persevere, find a way to move forward. I know I’m doing [the race] again. This is my life.”
If one theme dominated yesterday’s postrace reaction, it was a determination to help heal the wounds suffered not only by the victims but by the race itself and its host city.
Craig Welton, state director of Best Buddies Massachusetts, a mentoring program for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, fielded — and led — his own 15-person team. His group of mostly first-time marathoners raised $90,000, he said, which is “a very significant amount for us.”
Welton had reached the Kenmore Square area Monday when he was forced to turn back by race officials. He contacted his fellow runners by cellphone or e-mail as quickly as possible, he said, and all were unharmed. Although heartbroken for the scores of victims, Welton said he suspects most, if not all, of his teammates will be eager to compete again next year.
“Many run to raise money for a variety of causes, and this won’t necessarily be a huge deterrent,” Welton said. “The majority are not elite runners. They’re here to celebrate what’s right and to help other people. I’d be surprised next year if there were any less than this year.”
At the Girl Scouts of Eastern Massachusetts, which had waited five years to join the BAA’s charity list, chief executive Ruth Bramson said the $60,000 raised will send dozens of Scouts to camps this summer. Many of her 13 runners were troop-leading mothers setting examples for their daughters.
“Will we be back next year? Without hesitation,” Bramson said. Beyond any money raised, “it’s also a show of support for this city, which we love. We will absolutely not be deterred by this.”
One troop leader who ran Monday, Alana Bresnahan of Salem, has already indicated she will be back for the 2014 race. “I want to be on the team next year,” said Bresnahan, who raised nearly $5,500 this year. “. . . We need to show Scouts that we can’t live in fear.”
Bresnahan and a running partner, Kevin Livermore, are hoping to organize a Last Mile event to raise money for Monday’s victims. Runners who were not allowed to complete this year’s race would be invited to walk the last mile to the Boylston Street finish line, she said yesterday, symbolically finishing what they started.
Sarkis Chekijian, a Dana-Farber teammate of Sheridan’s, posted a personal best time of 3 hours, 36 minutes, 15 seconds Monday. It was his third Boston Marathon. The medical-sales executive, 39, said he was delighted to have raised nearly $25,000 for cancer research.
Chekijian was blocks away from the finish line, with family members safely on their way to a postrace party, when the first bomb detonated, then the second. By Monday night, his emotions had progressed from anger to sadness to gratitude his loved ones were unharmed.
“The impact going forward?” he said. “I don’t know. But anecdotally, from my Facebook feed, I think it might actually help people want to stand up to what’s happened.”