By Christian Brink
Gordon College News Service
Even though they’ve crossed this year’s finish line at the Boston Marathon, runners like Sheree Dunwell know that her work isn’t over. In fact, she’ll accept almost any challenge to continue raising money for a particular charity, including donning a banana suit in the downtown Boston Financial District.
Dunwell, 25, of Saugus, Massachusetts, is part of The Marathon Coalition, which consists of seven different teams of runners. The teams represent various nonprofits from across the region, and commit to raising money for them as they train for the marathon. Dunwell, who has been fundraising for Mass Mentoring Partnership these past four months, is continuing her efforts until the end of April.
“When I was accepted to be a member of the Mass Mentoring team,” said Dunwell, “the Boston Marathon quickly became a way for me to make a difference in others’ lives and not just my own.”
Two days before the marathon on April 16, Mike Wasserman, 27, of Boston, gathered five of the seven teams in the church basement in Newton, Massachusetts, for a dinner to celebrate their fundraising efforts and to share last minute words of inspiration before the race. They were also honored with “Spirit Awards” as Mark Blackman and Jenna Hudlow, representatives from Razoo, an online fundraising platform based out of Washington, D.C., recognized Dunwell and others for their creative fundraising efforts.
Wasserman founded the Coalition in 2008 and has worked closely with Razoo ever since. In its three years of operation, Razoo has already helped raise over $45 million for nonprofit organizations and other charitable causes nationwide through creative fundraising efforts.
This year’s team has been training since early December under marathon coach Rick Muhr of Grafton, Massachusetts. Muhr, who began training runners since 1996 after he lost his mother to leukemia, has coached over 15,000 runners and has helped raise $52 million for various causes. Among his lengthy list of running records is the 2004 Run Across Massachusetts, during which Muhr ran 165 miles in five days to help raise money for the Special Olympics.
During the April 16 Marathon Coalition dinner, Muhr reminded his runners that even though there are seven different charities, each with around fifteen runners, the Coalition is one team.
“I learned a long time ago that nothing significant in life is ever accomplished alone,” said Muhr. On the day of the marathon, Muhr waited for each member of the Coalition at the 15-mile mark so he could run with him or her briefly and offer his encouragement.
That included Dunwell, who said she ran a strong 15 miles out of the total 26.2 and was on pace to finish at five hours. But as she rounded the legendary Heartbreak Hill, Dunwell injured her Achilles tendon and was forced to slow down.
Still, Dunwell had come too far and believed too much in her charity to quit. Mass Mentoring’s mission to help academically challenged teenagers reach their full potential had inspired her to set an initial goal of $5,000, which she surpassed in January. She then set a new goal of $7,500 that was met last week.
How’d she do it? “I try to find unique ways (to fundraise) that are memorable because people become attached to that,” she said. Dunwell proposed three different dares that people who donated money through Razoo could vote for her to do. The dare that won took Dunwell to the Boston Financial District dressed up in a banana suit. For her entire lunch hour, she amazed spectators by singing and dancing the Peanut Butter Jelly Time song.
“Most people who run a marathon for time miss out on the inspiration and the heart that comes from people who train for bigger purposes,” Dunwell said, who acknowledged that the people she ran alongside, including a breast cancer survivor, as well as Mass Mentoring inspired her to finish the race in spite of her injury. “That’s what helped carry me those last five miles.”
The other six nonprofits represented by the Coalition include Access, Bottom Line, Boston Debate League, Jumpstart, Boston Museum of Science, and Summer Search.
Dunwell and the rest of the Mass Mentoring team have until April 29 to complete their fundraising goals through Razoo. Some of the other teams are working into early May.
For Dunwell, whose marathon was her first race, she’s already planned to run again for Mass Mentoring next year, either with or without the banana suit.
For more information on the Marathon Coalition email Mike Wasserman at Mike@Bottomline.org. For fundraising help, visit Razoo.