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Dave McGillivray Reunites with One of His Original Running Heroes

The last time Dave McGillivray saw Tara Orlowski was the early 1980s when she was undergoing chemotherapy at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and he was completing feats of endurance to raise money for cancer research through the Jimmy Fund.

Orlowski and Brendan Newman, both young children with cancer, had been assigned as McGillivray’s “heroes.” The children were featured in photos and press coverage and served as McGillivray’s inspiration for his 1,520-mile run from Winter Haven, Fla., to Boston in 1980 and his 1,522-mile triathlon through six New England states in 1981. Although McGillivray never forgot the two children—he has mentioned them in each of his nearly 1,900 speaking appearances since—he also lost touch with them, until recently.

McGillivray, 61, race director of the Boston Marathon and other iconic road races, said one day last year he decided to see what he could find out about them and typed each name into a Facebook search. “Guess what, I found them both!” McGillivray said. “It’s so amazing and so difficult to believe. So I reached out to both and they wrote back—and they are both healthy adults. Since then, I have been telling my audiences this story and then state that the good work we all do to help those in need can actually work and in their case, it did.”

That’s what makes McGillivray’s next speaking engagement so special.

On Monday at Boston Park Plaza, he will see Orlowski for first time in almost 35 years when she introduces him as keynote speaker at the annual conference for the National Association for Regulatory Administration (NARA). “I have not seen her since she was about 10 years old and going through cancer treatment,” McGillivray said. “It’s so great that both of these kids beat cancer and are thriving, and that after all these years I’ll get a chance to meet Tara again. I can’t wait.”

Now friends with them on Facebook, McGillivray discovered that both have dedicated their adult lives to helping children. Newman graduated college and is now a highly respected preschool teacher living in his native Rhode Island.

Orlowski, a Virginia native now living in Florida, was recently recognized as one of the nation’s promising leaders in child care by Child Care Exchange Magazine. She has more than 20 years of experience in regulatory services, early childhood education and higher education. Orlowski joined the NARA Board of Directors in 2013 and this past summer was named president of the non-profit association dedicated to providing the highest quality of comprehensive, evidence-based professional development services within the area of adult care, child care and child welfare.

When McGillivray months ago agreed to be the opening keynote speaker at the 2015 NARA Licensing Seminar in Boston, he knew that Orlowski served on the organization’s board and would likely be in attendance. But he didn’t know until recently that Orlowski had been named NARA President, meaning she is tasked with introducing the keynote speaker, who just so happens to be him. Orlowski said she cannot wait to meet McGillivray again after so many years.

“Being part of the New England Run for the Jimmy Fund helped me and my family face a very challenging time in our lives,” Orlowski said. “My mom and I were instantly embraced by Dave and the DMSE family. Dave’s warm and giving personality has influenced my life and inspired my enthusiasm for volunteering. As soon as I heard NARA was going to Boston, I immediately thought about Dave. Now as president of the association, I am honored to introduce him as our opening keynote speaker.”

McGillivray is equally inspired by Orlowski’s journey and the opportunity to see her again. “When I think about that little girl and what she went through and where she is now, it’s going to be an emotional moment, to say the least,” he said. “This truly is a story with a happy ending.”

McGillivray, president of DMSE Sports, first gained national prominence with his 1978 cross country run—from Medford, Oregon to Medford, Mass.—that took 80 days and raised almost $150,000 for the Jimmy Fund—the first money any runner ever raised for a cancer charity, according to Runner’s World. He has completed a number of similar feats of endurance since his groundbreaking cross country trek, including a second cross-country run in 2004 from San Francisco to Boston as part of TREK USA, a relay team event that raised more than $300,000 for five children’s charities.

Over his career, McGillivray has logged more than 150,000 miles, completed nine Hawaii Ironman Triathlons and has finished 129 marathons—including 43 consecutive Boston Marathons. The resident of North Andover, Mass., is a pioneer in what is now one of the most important aspects of the endurance sports industry—combining athletics with philanthropy. McGillivray and the events he has directed have helped raise more than $100 million for charity over the years.