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BU Teams with Goodwill on Marathon Monday

Questrom freshman runs with support from SAR coach, COM’s PRLab


On Marathon Monday, Rachel Harrison will run the 119th Boston Marathon, with a little help from colleagues at BU.

Harrison (Questrom’18), who is running the Marathon for Goodwill’s Youth Initiative, has been training for the race, her first marathon, with coaching help from Nick Wendel (SAR’13,’15), and she spread the word about her fundraising effort with help from the College of Communication’s PRLab.

Harrison is one of 13 members of the Running for Great Kids team, which is raising money for the Goodwill Initiative. The program helps youths in grades 4 through 12 living in Boston communities like Roxbury, Dorchester, and Mattapan attend after school programs. It also sets them up with mentoring partnerships and summer job opportunities, and stresses academic achievement, community service, and leadership development.

“The money we raise will stay within the youth community of Boston,” says Harrison, who has so far raised more than $2,300 for the charity, just over halfway to her goal of $4,500. “The program tries to help bridge the gap for young people into adulthood, getting them on the right track through after school programs and jobs.”

The Virginia native, who played field hockey in high school, grew up running the trails near her family farm with her mom, her partner for several half marathons. When she moved here in August, the incoming freshman used running to get used to her surroundings. “I explored Boston through running and learned where everything was,” she says. “There’s a great running community here; if you run over by BC on the weekends, people are handing out water, and they cheer for you as you run up Heartbreak Hill.”

Harrison joined Boston’s Nike Run Club to meet other runners in the area, and a member of the group told her about Goodwill’s Marathon team. When she signed on with the team in December, Goodwill paired her up with marathon veteran Wendel, who is finishing the doctor of physical therapy program at Sargent College. He was by her side as she trained through the worst winter in Boston history.

At first, Harrison didn’t realize that there was anything very unusual about the piles of snow lining the streets. “There isn’t much snow in Virginia, and this being my first winter in Boston, I thought all the snow was normal,” she says. “But as I started seeing all these records broken, I knew it was worse than normal.”

She recalls getting splashed by cars as she and Wendel were running a half-marathon through blizzard-like conditions. “My leggings were soaked and my feet were freezing,” she says. “Since I made it through that, I figured I could do 26.2 miles in warmer, sunnier April.”

Meanwhile, Goodwill, which has been a client of COM’s PRLab for eight semesters, asked for help getting the word out about the Marathon team. PRLab account supervisor Jennifer Gregorio (COM’15) oversaw three account executives who worked directly with the Goodwill runners. Gregorio estimates that the team spent 35 hours each week on the account, planning fundraising events, overseeing Goodwill’s social media accounts on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, and organizing a final team party, complete with a photo booth. Account executive Katherine Melkonian (COM’15) took on the job of researching local newspapers and websites covering Harrison’s hometown of North Garden, Va. Harrison’s family owns a popular local farm, so Melkonian thought to use that name recognition to attract reporters’ interest.

On Sunday, Harrison, Wendel, and members of the PRLab will attend a brunch hosted by Goodwill to introduce the Marathon team to some of the young people who will benefit from their work over the last few months.

“I wanted to run for the Goodwill Youth Initiative because Boston is my new community,” Harrison says. “It’s adopted me, and I wanted to give back to it.”

Interested in supporting Rachel Harrison in her quest to raise funds for Goodwill’s Youth Initiative? Donate here. Also running this year’s Boston Marathon will be a team raising money for the Lingzi Foundation in memory of Lu Lingzi (GRS’13), who was one of three people killed in the Marathon bombings on April 15, 2013. The foundation provides educational opportunities for students, supports organizations that reflect Lu Lingzi’s passions, and recognizes those building bridges between cultures and communities.

The 119th Boston Marathon is Monday, April 20, beginning at 9 a.m., in Hopkinton, Mass. The prime viewing location is along Beacon Street, from East Campus through Brookline. The first runners should hit that area sometime after 11:30 a.m. Check out this online map to track how the marathon will progress.

Amy Laskowski

Amy Laskowski can be reached at amlaskow@bu.edu.

One Comment on BU Teams with Goodwill on Marathon Monday

  • Judy Gough on 04.17.2015 at 9:10 am

    Rachel is the very best friend of my granddaughter and they both grew up as neighbors and as sisters…. I cannot tell you how proud we all are of her here in Virginia that she has chosen to do this.. She is smart, she is kind, she is beautiful… WAY TO GO RACH!!!!! we are pulling for you – She is BOSTON STRONG!!!

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