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John Tanner Memorial 5K remembers an inspirational pair

John Tanner, shown with Nicholas Dainiak, wore a “Nicholas Research Run’’ shirt when he raced.Handout

5K honors late runner and his young friend

John Tanner and Nicholas Dainiak met six years ago.

Tanner was an accomplished marathoner from Marlborough, Nicholas the 5-year-old grandson of one of Tanner’s co-workers at Russell’s Garden Center in Wayland.

Nicholas, who lived in Bedford, N.H., had been diagnosed with a life-threatening and rare neurological illness, Batten disease, that primarily afflicts young children.

“John felt an instant affection for Nicholas,’’ said his twin brother, Jim Tanner, “and when he found out that a foundation had been established in Nicholas’s name to promote research into the disease, he responded in his own special way.’’

John Tanner visited Nicholas in New Hampshire on his birthday, and when a race in which he was competing wound through Bedford, he presented the boy with a medal he had won at the Boston Marathon — one of several cherished by the youngster.


“John and Nicholas always spoke on the phone on race day and Nicholas would say ‘go John, go John,’ ” recalled the boy’s grandmother, Dotty Noyes of Sudbury, who tends greenhouses in the spring and special orders during the fall season at Russell’s.

To raise awareness for the Our Promise to Nicholas Foundation, Tanner, a member of the Highland City Striders in Marlborough, wore a distinctive blue T-shirt labeled “Nicholas Research Run’’ that also included the youngster’s picture when he raced.

Tanner was wearing the shirt the day he died while running the New York City Half-Marathon in March 2013. Nicholas succumbed to his illness in May — on his 11th birthday.

Both will be remembered Oct. 19 at the second John Tanner Memorial 5K Run, which will loop mainly around Pelham Island Road (behind Russell’s) and adjacent to the Sudbury River in Wayland.

Proceeds from the race will benefit Our Promise to Nicholas, which was founded in 2009 by the Noyes and Dainiak families and has raised $400,000 through a variety of fund-raisers. Natick resident Cindy Fitzgibbon, a meteorologist at WCVB-TV, will serve as emcee.


Nicholas’s parents, Chris and Heather , who strive to educate people about the disease, will be among 20 family members working behind the scenes at the race. A contingent from Russell’s, including Jim Tanner and his cousin, David Johnson, will run the course. Kim Hilner, John Tanner’s companion who also befriended Nicholas, will offer her support.

“It makes me very proud to be among people who are so caring and able to give of themselves,’’ said Dotty Noyes. “Many employees and their families are closer because of John and Nicholas.’’

Suzy Shapiro of Sudbury, marketing manager for Russell’s who has run for charitable causes, said Pelham Island Road was one of John Tanner’s favorite places to train.

“He felt it would be wonderful to have a race there and so his dream has come true,’’ Shapiro said. “He was family to everyone at Russell’s, and since he’d do anything for us and for Nicholas, we continue to do whatever we can in his memory and to honor his chosen cause.’’

Jim Tanner, who lives in Framingham, said he is a spiritual person, and “I truly believe John and Nicholas are together again.’’

A fund-raising raffle booth will be set up at Russell’s the weekend of the race, and collection boxes for the cause are set up at the registers.

To register, go online to www.racewire.com or contact Amy Noyes at amybnoyes@ gmail.com. The registration fee is $35, and the top three male and female finishers will receive a gift certificate; all runners will be given medals.


For information about the foundation, go to www.ourpromisetonicholas.com.

Curran, Dokus get conference honors

Runners Ashley Curran of Franklin, a sophomore at Connecticut College, and Ali Dokus of Littleton, an Emerson College senior, have been honored by their respective conferences.

Curran was named the New England Small College Athletic Conference’s Women’s Cross-Country Performer of the Week after finishing second among a field of 272 at last weekend’s UMass Dartmouth Invitational.

She posted a time of 17:52 on the 5K course, the second fastest in program history, to help the Camels finish third. She shared the team’s rookie of the year honors last season.

Dokus finished first for meet champion Emerson last weekend at the Rivier Raider Invitational in 19.51, and was given a similar honor by the New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference. It was her second win this season.

Soboff lands national honor for soccer

Brandeis University senior Michael Soboff was named the Disney Soccer/National Soccer Coaches Association of America Division 3 Men’s National Player of the Week for his recent exploits.

Three days after scoring the game-winning goal in a 1-0 win over Worcester Polytechnic Institute on Sept. 17, the Framingham resident assisted on the winning goal in a 2-0 win over Babson. Both opponents had been previously unbeaten.

The Newton North graduate was leading Brandeis — 8-0 and ranked fifth nationally and first in New England in Division 3 — with 12 points (5 goals, 2 assists).


Here and there

Framingham State University senior Isabela DeSouza of Framingham recently shared Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference player of the week honors in women’s soccer. Her three goals in the conference opener lifted the Rams to a 4-1 victory over Bridgewater State, and she scored two more goals in a 4-3 win over Rhode Island College. She leads the conference with 11. . . Mia Vittimberga, 10, of Lexington, was a two-time winner in the Short Stirrup Division at the recent “A” rated Head of the Bay horse shows in Buzzards Bay, competing against 20 other riders. Vittimberga attends Nashoba Brooks School in Concord.

Marvin Pave can be reached at marvin.pave@rcn.com.