A group of 52 runners have rallied to the starting line of the Boston Marathon this year to raise funds and awareness for Project Hope, a homeless women’s shelter in Roxbury, MA. Over the past year, the group has raised an astounding $320,000 for the charity.
Each pair of shoes hitting the ground are well worn this season. All members of Project Hope’s team have spent countless hours training their bodies and minds for the 26.2 mile trek from Hopkinton to downtown Boston’s Boylston street. Many marathon runners represent large organizations like The Jimmy Fund, but Assistant Director of Development & External Affairs Robyn Eastwood believes Project Hope offers them a chance to “know the people they fund-raise for.”
With a staff of only 60 people, Project Hope is still a small endeavor. Eastwood said, “having this crew of 52 people out there raising money and awareness…[makes] a really big impact.” A recent press release about Iesha M. (whose last name is omitted for privacy) paints a picture of Project Hope’s mission.
Iesha was just 15 years old when she became pregnant and struggled to achieve her high school diploma. After graduation, the young mother had a strained relationship with her family and little money. She turned to Project Hope who offered her a safe place to live while simultaneously offering enrollment in a 12 week job training program.
Today Iesha works for Tufts Medical Plan, where she has been employed for over two years. She is also an ambassador for the charity, sharing her success story with others through Project Hope’s Speaker’s Bureau, a monthly workshop on public speaking and team building. A number of the marathon runners have personally met Iesha and have attended other Speaker’s Bureau events.
“That drives them,” said Eastwood. “They know what they’re running for.”
While the personal relationship with the charity’s recipients motivates some, this group of runners has a diversity of reasons for involvement. Martha Sensovich, who personally raised over $10,000 says she is running for her mother. On her fundraising page, Sensovich tells of her own experience with hardship.
Abandoned by her father at the age of nine with a brother of 15, Sensovich watched her mother toil through poverty. “I remember the first time going to the supermarket with [my mother]…having to use food stamps,” said Sensovich. “[She] was so embarrassed.” The mother who barely made ends meet for her two children now has Alzheimer’s and “has no memory of the past,” said Sensovich.
“Project Hope would have been the perfect organization for her.”
Matt O’Malley of Boston says he is running for Project Hope in support of a local non-profit. His second time running for the organization, he cleverly asked for a $26.20 donation, one dollar for every mile he will face today in the marathon. After raising nearly $6,000 in donations, O’Malley said this year’s marathon “promises to be the most emotional one yet.”
As the city of Boston prepares for the celebration of Patriot’s Day, smiles abound and laughter is contagious. But the a streak of heartbreak shook the marathon last year when a double bombing at the finish line of Boylston street killed four people and severely injured 12 more.
Few in Boston refuse to let the events of last year’s marathon keep them away from Boylston street this year. Project Hope’s father and son duo Matthew and Bob Gifford spoke of the bombing on their fundraising page. “On Patriot’s Day, we’re taking the finish line back,” said Bob Gifford. “We’re making Boston Strong by helping the weakest among us.”
Project Hope’s Development Associate Laura Vincent commended the rallied marathon runners’ fundraising mission saying, “they were able to put their fear behind them for the greater good.”
Working for Project Hope since 2010, Vincent said she “fell in love with the mission because [she] was so struck by how successful the program was.” Iesha M. is just one of the many women Project Hope has been able to pull from poverty.
The testimonies by women who have been helped by Project Hope show that it is much more than a place to rest your head. Nakira M. (last name omitted for privacy) shares her story on the charity’s website of having triplets in 2002, whom she could barely feed on a medical assistant’s income. After finding a flyer for Project Hope’s Workforce Development Program, she instantly enrolled.
Working full time now at a Boston area hospital Nakira said, “[I] received…resources for my children as a direct result of having been associated with Project Hope.”
Maria V. (last name omitted for privacy) came from Peru in 2005, in order to create better opportunities for her two children. Though, the young mother soon learned she was blocked from the success she dreamed of because she could not speak English. After enrolling in Project Hope’s ESOL program, Maria’s language barrier began to break. Maria also worked with Project Hope’s Workforce Development and Employer Partnership Program. The combination led to a secure employment at a local Boston hospital.
The rallied community of runners for Project Hope will take to the starting line of the Boston Marathon today after months of raising funds. Eastwood said of the marathon group, “all that hard work it took to raise…money [can] now be seen in action.”
By Erin P. Friar
To support the runners and Project Hope visit their fundraising page here: http://www.crowdrise.com/fundraise-and-volunteer/the-team/projecthope2014bostonmarathon/sunrise1