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Run a Race, Cross Home Base

Red Sox 9K to help Iraq and Afghan veterans

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It may not be scoring against the Yankees, but crossing Fenway’s home base on May 23 will contribute to something more important than besting the Evil Empire: helping returning war vets with brain injuries or PTSD.

Many a Red Sox fan dreams of rounding third to slide triumphantly into home base in Fenway Park. Now, that fantasy can become a reality — with a little work.

The Home Base Program, a partnership between the Red Sox Foundation and Massachusetts General Hospital, is calling on baseball fans and caring runners to join the Run to Home Base, a 9K race starting in Fenway Park and finishing at home plate on Sunday, May 23. The race will raise money to help returning veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars with brain injuries or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

“We really felt that there was a need and that a lot of veterans aren’t seeking the care that they deserve,” says Tracy West, director of MGH’s signature programs. “By forming this program, we could help convince those veterans to seek that care for themselves and their families.”

Meg Vaillancourt, Red Sox senior vice president for corporate affairs and executive director of the Red Sox Foundation, says the name of the race is symbolic — both players and military personnel rely on colleagues to succeed. “No one makes the journey to home base alone,” she says. “You get there with help from your teammates.”

The concept sprang from the Red Sox trips to Washington, D.C., after each of their World Series victories. As part of their tour, the players and owners visited Walter Reed Army Medical Center, where many veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars recover.

Red Sox chairman Tom Werner was especially struck, Vaillancourt says, by the optimism of the men and women treated for brain injuries and PTSD. On the flip side, he was troubled to see many veterans — too embarrassed to leave their rooms — send family members for autographs.

The money raised by the racers will provide counseling services for veterans and their families, fund educational outreach about traumatic brain injury and stress disorders, and back research for better forms of treatment. “The program really tries to reach out to this veteran community and let them know that it’s not only okay to seek help if they need it, but that they deserve it,” says West.

The Center for Integration of Medicine and Innovative Technology, a consortium of medical organizations and academic institutions, including Boston University, will run the program’s research focus.

A $25 registration fee is required for the race’s 3,500 spots. Registration has begun, and runners need to raise at least $1,000 to participate. Corporate teams are welcome and must have 20 members. Vaillancourt says several veterans groups are running for the cause.

The race begins at 8 a.m., with runners plodding their way from Fenway Park, across the Massachusetts Avenue Bridge, down Memorial Drive, and back across the bridge to finish at home plate.

Each runner will receive five family passes to Fenway, where fans can cheer from the stands. In their downtime, guests can wander the park’s concourses and check out exhibitors, an information booth about the Home Base Program, a military appreciation area, and a fun zone — complete with balloon animals and face-painting. Food vendors will be open as well.

In addition to crossing Fenway’s iconic home base, runners will score a New Balance Tech running shirt and baseball hat with the Home Base logo.

And fans, keep those eyes peeled for Red Sox Foundation Team 9, formed by Red Sox wives. Who says their spouses are the only ones who can cross home base?

Find out more information about the race or register online at Run to Home Base.

Leslie Friday can be reached at lfriday@bu.edu; follow her on twitter at @lesliefriday.

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