For some runners, competing in the Boston Marathon is not only about achieving an athletic dream, it’s about running with a higher purpose. To them, qualifying is only the beginning of their story. These are the ones who fight for others by using their gift to create awareness, raise money and honor the people and causes that matter the most in their lives.
Charity runners are a special group of people who inspire us and others with their passion. Here are five phenomenal people set to run Boston this year and we’re excited to bring you their stories.
Lives in: Bastrop, LA
Charity: St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital
Although Waggoner has completed five previous marathons, she knows her first time tackling Boston will be tough. So she will rely on the memories of her late son’s struggle with cancer to give her strength. “He was an amazing boy, and I know he will be with me every step of the way in completing the Boston Marathon,” said Waggoner.
Charles “Buck” Bostick was only eight when he died in April 2003, just a year and a half after he was diagnosed with hepatoblastoma, a form of liver cancer. To remember him and help other children with cancer, Waggoner is raising money for St. Jude’s where Buck was a patient. As of mid-March, she had collected more than $15,000 for the hospital.
“Even though we did not have the outcome we hoped and prayed for, the doctors and nurses went above and beyond to try and save my boy,” she shared. “Buck loved St. Jude.”
Waggoner, who works for a healthcare management company, squeezes in marathon training around her 11-year-old son’s sports schedule. She also has a daughter in college. “My family is very supportive and that helps so much,” she says. “When it gets tough, I think about Buck and what he went through. Honestly, running a marathon is nothing compared to watch he endured.”
For more info on her fundraising effort visit her campaign page here.
Lives in: Los Angeles, CA
Charity: The Epilepsy Foundation
To bring as much attention as he can to epilepsy, Zitomersky has a mind-blowing plan for the marathon; he will run it backwards. If that’s not tough enough, he also hopes to break the current Guinness World Record of 3:43 set by Xu Zhenjun in 2004 at the Beijing Marathon.
“I’ve been raising money and awareness for epilepsy for 21 years now,” said Zitomersky, who is a seven-time marathoner. “I had told myself that if I qualified for Boston, I would go big with my epilepsy fundraising and awareness campaign. I wanted to find a way to raise money and awareness outside of my network, and I knew that I had to do something crazy to do that.”
Zitomersky is motivated by the memory of a brother he never met; Brian was just seven when he suffered from non-stop seizures in his sleep. Brian ultimately passed in 1977.
In a way, running backwards is similar to what those with epilepsy experience on a daily basis. “In certain ways, having epilepsy is like going through life backwards; you cannot see what is ahead of you because seizures can happen at any time,” Zitomersky shared.
Zitomersky has logged hundreds of backwards miles and even does interval and tempo workouts. He often does backward runs on a treadmill and has found good paths to run on that have few obstacles. For Boston, he will be accompanied by a spotter, who will be Zitomersky’s eyes on the course and make sure he doesn’t hit anyone or anything. “It will be a relief not to have to look behind me to see where I’m going,” he said.
He’s also been doing well with raising funds for The Epilepsy Foundation. So far, he’s collected more than $26,000 and hopes to reach $100,000. For more info on his effort, check out his page here.
Lives in: Middleboro, Mass.
Charity: Pooler Fights Poverty
Inspired by his volunteer trips to Central America, Pooler is dedicating his Boston run to raising money for children there. “I have a goal in life to improve the life of as many people as possible and using my running ability to give back to others is the least I can do to help,” he shared.
The Westfield State college student has traveled several times with nonprofits to Nicaragua and Guatemala, helping children in schools and pitching in with the construction of a schoolhouse. During a recent trip back to Guatemala, he brought suitcases stuffed with toothbrushes, soap and other basic necessities he purchased with some of his Boston Marathon donations. So far, he has raised more than $2,500, and plans to set aside a portion to pay for children’s school supplies.
Pooler has been approaching his Boston training with the same zest. “I ran a timed half marathon, [and] I was able to run at a 6:50 pace per mile, which is right on pace for where I want to be for Boston,” he stated.
To learn more about Pooler’s effort, visit his GoFundMe page.
Lives in: Southbridge, MA
A decade after she lost her brother to suicide, Veronica Reichardt continues to support Samaritans, a suicide prevention organization she leaned on after his death. The international organization offers hotlines for people in crisis and offers support for suicide survivors and families of those whose loved ones have taken their lives.
“This charity means so much to me,” said Reichardt. “They have helped me with the healing process.” Her younger brother and only sibling Vaughn took his life in 2007. “He was only 15, when my mother found him,” she writes on her CrowdRise page. “I remember that phone call. That call made my heart skip a beat. I remember so many great things we shared.”
Reichardt started running in 2014 to lose weight and has continued to enjoy the sport ever since. “It’s amazing how far I’ve come,” she said. “[Boston] will be my tenth marathon.” It will also be the fourth year in a row Reichardt will be running to raise money for Samaritans. So far, she has received more than $6,000 in donations and has a goal of $7,500 for this year.
For more info on Reichardt’s efforts, check out her CrowdRise page.
Malinda Ann Hill
Lives in: Wynnewood, PA
Charity: Alex’s Lemonade Stand
For the second year in a row, Hill will be running Boston to raise money for cancer research and patient and family support. Last year, she joined her twin sister Leah—a seasoned Boston runner—and participated in the marathon for the first time. She ended up raising $5,000 for the Dana Farber Cancer Institute.
Leah’s brother-in-law and the sisters’ grandmother both died of cancer. This year, Hill hopes to raise $1,000 for Alex’s Lemonade Stand, which was started by 4-year-old Alexandra Scott, who died of neuroblastoma in 2004. “Alex’s Lemonade Stand is very close to my heart since I’m the bereavement coordinator at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia,” Hill shared. “I know how important it is to fund childhood cancer research.”
She also continues to be inspired by how a little girl achieved so much in her short life. By age eight, Alex had raised $1 million for cancer research with her lemonade stands. The organization has since raised $150 million for cancer research. “She demonstrated how one person can inspire so many to work together to make a difference,” said Hill.
Hill will also compete in Boston this year as an official time qualifier. After 11 attempts, she finally hit her age mark at the 2016 Philadelphia Marathon, running 3:46 to qualify. “My number one goal for Boston is to enjoy every step from Hopkinton to Boylston Street,” she remarked.
For more info on her fundraising effort, visit Alex’s Lemonade Stand.