For Boston Marathon's charity runners, resolve and camaraderie unshaken
In the wake of the Boston Marathon bombing, the many athletes who run for charity are rallying around one another, their fundraising causes, and the larger Boston community.
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Though several other US marathons include a higher percentage of charity runners, few rival Boston’s fundraising power – or its local connection. The BAA’s 35 official charity groups range from medical research foundations to youth organizations, and all are based in and benefit the greater Boston area. In total, they are expected to raise more than $11.5 million this year.Skip to next paragraph
In Pictures Learning from the Boston Marathon bombings
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John Hancock, the Boston-based financial firm that sponsors the race, is working with Internet fundraising site Crowdrise to support its 109 nonprofit partners this year, which are expected to raise $7 million.
These partnerships with the BAA and John Hancock are coveted slots. Each year, hundreds of local charities apply to be part of those official fundraising programs. Barbara Sicuso, director of the BAA’s registration services and charity program, describes a rigorous evaluation process in which each charity’s impact and status as a partner is reviewed annually.
Some have complained about the advantage given to charity runners and others slots gifted by the BAA to nonqualifying competitors. Others say allowing nonqualifying runners into the race has weakened the “elite” status of the marathon – although these runners make up a small share of participants.
Qualifying runners also participate on BAA/John Hancock charity teams. And charity fundraising surrounding the marathon is not limited to those official partners. Many qualifying runners work individually or in teams to raise money for other causes and organizations. This year, for example, a team of nine runners from Newtown, Conn., ran to raise money for local charities. Some estimate that including unaffiliated charity fundraising puts the total fundraising figure throughout the marathon’s history closer to $200 million.
‘Something bigger than ourselves’
Gemmer says being part of the team running to benefit the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute is about much more than fundraising goals and race times. She and other charity team runners cite a strong sense of camaraderie and commitment to a larger cause. This year especially, Gemmer and her teammates have leaned on that bond, gathering in a local bar last Tuesday to support one another and take stock of events.
A runner with the American Liver Foundation team spoke of the community of volunteers supporting the runners during months of team training. During Saturday morning team-training runs, these volunteers waited outside for hours, she said, even during the cold winter months, to pass runners water or take their clothing layers from them.
This year, however, many of those runners were not able to finish the race because of the bombing. Of the more than 23,000 runners who ran this year's marathon, more than 5,700 were unable to complete the race. The BAA does not yet have any official count on how many of those runners were part of charity teams, but because the bombs went off at a popular race finish time, many charity runners and their families were in vicinity of the finish line at the time. Those family members and friends are among the more than 170 injured in the blasts.