Somerville’s Marathoners Tell Us Why They’re Running

boston marathonPhoto by Sonia Su / Flickr

Many Boston Marathon runners tackle an entirely different kind of endurance challenge as they train for the annual race: raising money—often to the tune of $10,000 or more—for charity.

The Boston Marathon Official Charity Program debuted in 1989 and has grown ever since; last year, nonprofit runners raised more than $30 million.

We caught up with some of the local marathoners who are racing for a cause next month to find out what will keep them kicking for the whole 26.2-mile route.

Michelle Curtis

Name: Michelle Curtis
Years Running the Marathon: First-timer!
Fundraising Goal: $10,000
Charity: Dana-Farber Cancer Institute
Why I’m Running: I’ve always been a runner on the lookout for my next big challenge—and the Boston Marathon is the ultimate challenge. I choose to run with the Dana-Farber team because I am not just running to accomplish my physical goals, but running for my dad, my team and anyone who has been affected by cancer. I wanted to surround myself with runners who have similar passions and experiences that could help me to be stronger through my dad’s journey and be there for others who are going through the same thing.

boston marathon

Name: Michele Kaufman
Years Running the Marathon: First one!
Charity: Dana-Farber Cancer Institute
Fundraising Goal: $10,350
Why I’m Running: I needed a tangible way to give back to Dana-Farber, which has not only saved my best friend’s life, but also the life of many aunts and cousins in my family. I want our community to break the stigma around talking about cancer, something that sadly but deeply impacts most of us. The Dana-Farber team has hundreds of inspiring and determined runners, cancer survivors and caretakers who are working towards the same goal.

I’ve been running track and field my whole life, and I’ve done my best to intentionally choose the events with the least amount of running possible (long jump and hurdles). I never thought I could or would run a marathon, but Dana-Farber has given me a reason to want to run one—and I’m even starting to believe I can finish the race!

(Stop by the Armory on Friday, March 31 for a barn dance and bluegrass concert that benefits Michele’s Dana Farber run. With live music from the aptly named Boston-based band Mile Twelve.)

amy davis

Name: Amy Davis
Years Running the Marathon: 14th total marathon.
Organization: The Learning Prep School, a private special needs school for kids with language based learning disabilities.
Fundraising Goal: $13,000
Why I’m Running: I run because I love it. Why I run for LPS?  I am the principal of this amazing school (240 students). This is my third marathon as principal running for LPS. The money I raises helps support our nonprofit school and gives the students and the staff the tools to do great things! My Crowdrise website says it way better—and it has a funny video about me getting “pie-ed” all for my school and charity. Parents could donate money and their kids got to “pie” me! It was a mess for sure, but all in good fun.

brigham and women's hospital

Name: Abby Cange
Years Running The Marathon: First Boston Marathon
Charity: Gillian Reny Stepping Strong Center for Trauma Innovation at Brigham and Women’s Hospital
Fundraising Goal: Original goal was $7,500, now working towards stretch goal of $10,000
Why I’m Running:
I dabble in distance running for fun, have completed a bunch of half marathons over the past ten years and twice I’ve biked the Boston Marathon course with the Midnight Marathon Bike Ride event. The second time I did the Midnight Marathon ride was in 2013, so I was down at the finish line on Boylston Street about 12 hours before the bombing. Since that terrible event, I knew in the back of my mind that I wanted to get more involved with the marathon in some way. I work at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and finally this year I applied and was accepted to their marathon team.

Our charity, The Gillian Reny Stepping Strong Center, was founded by the Reny family after their daughter Gillian was treated at Brigham and Women’s Hospital for traumatic injuries to her legs sustained during the 2013 marathon bombing. The center’s mission is to advance care for civilian and military trauma victims, and the Reny family completely embodies the concept of turning something tragic into something positive. In under four years, they’ve already raised over $10 million and established a new physical center for trauma research, which opened at Brigham in January.


Name: Brittany Viola
Years Running the Marathon: This is my first marathon! No target race-time, just want to finish.
Charity: Tenacity Inc
Fundraising Goal: $6,0000
Why I’m Running: I’m running for Tenacity, an organization that assists underprivileged students in the Boston Area. Since 1999, Tenacity has helped over 30,000 students build a foundation for lifelong achievement through in-school, after-school and summer programs. I chose to run for Tenacity because I’ve gotten to know many of the kids who benefit from this amazing organization as I’ve served as a mentor at the Jackson Mann Middle School in Allston since the fall. I’m proud to be running as a member of Team Tenacity.

dana farber

Name: Eileen Wallace
Years Running The Marathon: This will be my eighth consecutive Boston Marathon.
Charity: Dana-Farber Marathon Challenge
Fundraising Goal: $11,000 for 2017, but currently I am only $7,200 away from the cumulative Dana-Farber $100K Lifetime Achievement Level. I am very excited to hopefully make that goal by April 12!
Why I Run: I run so there are more survivors like me. As a breast cancer survivor, I am “Living Proof” of why we must continue funding cancer research. Thanks to the talented scientists at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, we are discovering breakthrough treatments that are improving the quality of life and survival rates for patients everywhere. It comforts me to know that more people will have the treatment available for their type of cancer, just as I was fortunate to have 13 years ago.

I run in memory of a special young lady, Brielle Laplante, my Jimmy Fund patient partner for the 2012 Marathon. Knowing that she would be cheering me on carried me all the way to the finish (in record heat, too). Sadly, a few months later, Brielle lost her battle with cancer, one that she fought most of her short but spirited life. She was not afraid of this awful disease and was—and still is—my hero. It’s unfair that any child would have to deal with such a terrible thing. The research to find a total cure must continue, and this is why I run.

(On Saturday, March 25, stop by Brass Union for a “Music Vs. Cancer” fundraiser—featuring The Nephrok! Allstars and Dave Wells—to support Eileen’s efforts.)

261 fearless

Name: Jessica Schulman
Years Running the Marathon: This is my first Boston Marathon.
Charity: 261 Fearless
Fundraising Goal: $7,261
Why I’m Running: I am running for all the women who have ever been told “no” because of their gender. In a political age when gender inequality is more than prevalent, I am running for Team 261 Fearless to empower and unite women. This is a platform of inclusion, a foundation to inspire and a means of connectivity. Women are strong, fearless in the face of adversity and a powerful catalyst for change.

As a lifelong supporter of women in sports, I am following my dream of running the 2017 Boston Marathon. The team I’m running for is a positive force, defying the hatred and prejudice that has plagued our media in recent months. 261 Fearless supports the empowerment of women by creating running clubs around the world. It’s Kathrine Switzer’s team (the first female to run the Boston Marathon 50 years ago) and she’s running again this year, lining up with a team of about 100 runners. I feel like it is a very timely cause to support—highlighting inclusion and equality of women. This race is for the ladies!

tedy's team

Name: Dani Holmes-Kirk
Years Running the Marathon: Four
Charity: Tedy’s Team
Fundraising Goal: Dani’s Tedy’s Team Goal for Boston 2017 is $5,400, but she’s raised over $7,200 additionally while training for this year’s race. She raised $25,514 over three previous Boston Marathons and one Rock N Roll Nashville marathon; her total funds raised for Tedy’s Team is over $32,714.
Why I’m Running: I have a strong personal connection to strokes as both of my grandparents are stroke survivors as well as my wife’s father—in addition to countless others I have met thanks to Tedy’s Team and social media, including my friend Gelcys from Runner Unleashed. I run for those that can’t, and I push to raise awareness for and to fight stroke!

aaron naft

Name: Aaron Naft
Years Running the Marathon: Two
Fundraising Goal: $10,000
Charity: Dana-Farber Cancer Institute
Why I’m Running: I am running 26.2 miles to honor the 26 months that my ‘little brother,’ my Dana-Farber Jimmy Fund Clinic patient partner Hugh Clivas (8 years old from Lexington, MA) , has fought cancer, and to represent the fight that my family, friends and thousands of others fight every day. The marathon embodies the resilience, strength, and journey that every cancer patient represents, and I am doing my part by raising money and awareness for our battle.

You can learn more about Aaron’s efforts in this Facebook video!

gentle giant

From left: Adrian Farrell, Erica Gennaro, Paul O’Donnell, Rich Pelkie and Abby Loucks

Name: Erica Gennaro
Years Running: This will be my fourth Boston Marathon.
Charity: St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital
Fundraising Goal: $3,000
Why I’m Running: I’m running Boston because I’m hoping to run a sub four-hour marathon. And I’m running with four of my colleagues at Gentle Giant Moving Co.—which has been a longtime corporate sponsor of the Boston Marathon—so the race means a lot to us. As a team, we decided to fundraise for St. Jude because childhood cancer sucks. Children are supposed to be outside playing with their friends, not in a hospital fighting for their life. My favorite part about St. Jude is that no families ever receive a bill for treatment. St. Jude wants families to focus on recovery efforts, not the stresses of medical bills.

Name: Abby Loucks 
Years Running the Marathon: 2017 will be my first year.
Charity: St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital
Fundraising Goal: Initially it was $2,000, but I hit that within a month and increased it to $3,500.
Why I’m Running: I never thought of myself as a runner, but I decided to sign up for the marathon this year to test my limits and prove that I could do more than I had ever thought before. I am reminded of that on every single training run because I run for St. Jude. Kids with cancer endure so much, and they are pushed to the limit every day. Running a marathon is nothing compared to the fight these families fight—and I am so happy to be able to use my run as a way to raise money for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. St. Jude provides the best medical care for kids with cancer—completely free of cost, for life. That’s worth every mile.