26.2 Miles for Braille Literacy

When Ilana Meyer and Marissa Sullivan cross the finish line of the Boston Marathon this Patriots Day, they won’t just have completed the world’s greatest race. For the last four months, they have run hundreds of miles in snow, ice, and rain, because they care about blind children and adults having access to the printed word. They’ve raised thousands of dollars in support of braille literacy, and National Braille Press is honored to have their support and to be a part of the 2017 John Hancock Non-Profit Program.

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#BeBoston, 2017 Boston Marathon, John Hancock 

Twenty years ago, when I competed as a runner in the Boston Marathon, all I wondered about was myself. How many people were in front of me? Behind me? How did I do compared to other blind runners? What was my time up Heartbreak Hill? I loved, and still love, that aspect of running, which allows me to compete with others, the clock, and myself.

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Joe Q running during training

Runners like Ilana and Marissa have shown me that running is so much more. Through John Hancock’s charity program, the Boston Marathon makes an individual act—completing the race—into an effort for others. That collective power has truly impressive results—over the last 6 Boston Marathons, NBP’s runners have raised over $100,000!

This year, Ilana and Marissa have already raised more than $20,000 so that others can share their love of reading. Their journey over the 26.2 miles is a reminder of the power of selflessness and of pushing oneself to the limit. Their race is not only a physical challenge, but also an act of altruism which will put books into the hands of blind children and adults—making a difference in their education, literacy, and day-to-day lives.

Marathon Monday has a different meaning for me now than it did twenty years ago. I no longer watch for just the top finishers—I now go out on the course to cheer on our champions, who truly exemplify what it means to run for others.

By Joe Quintanilla, Vice President of Development and Major Gifts

Boston Bomber Won’t Stop Us

NBP has been part of the John Hancock Non-profit Boston Marathon program for two years now.  It has proven to be a wonderful way to raise money and awareness for braille literacy.  We were able to make a big statement about the capabilities of blind people by having two of our runners, one in each year, run blindfolded.

So when I received a text from one of our board members with the devastating news that two bombs exploded at the Finish Line of the Marathon, my first concern was for his safety and that of his friend – one of our runners who had just crossed the finish line 10 minutes earlier.  My concern then went to our other runners still on the course, their friends and families, and the Boston community.  After an hour and a half of not being able to communicate on my cell phone, I finally connected and they were thankfully all safe.

As I sat at home after speaking to all of our runners that evening and heard that many of the runners crossing the finish line at the time of the explosions were charity runners, I began to wonder if this horrible act of violence would derail our efforts.  My sadness turned to anger, and I wrote the following letter to each of our Marathon runners—Erin, Gus, and Bridget:

I am glad you made it back home safely.  On behalf of the staff and people we serve at NBP, I want to again express my gratitude for representing us on Monday.  You had a great run, and I hope you can find the time to be proud of your accomplishments.  You trained hard and overcame challenges during the training, you raised awareness about the importance of braille, and you helped change perceptions of what it means to be blind.  Your efforts so far have raised thousands of dollars so that blind children and adults can read! 

I hate it that your marathon experience was marred by despicable people.  As a small token of my gratitude and appreciation, I have made a personal donation of $262 in support of each of your marathon fundraising efforts.  I hope it is a symbol that this horrific act will not outshine all of the good you and all of the other charity runners are doing.  You, the volunteers, and the emergency responders have made lives better and that should not be eclipsed by violence.   

I will post about your efforts on my Facebook page and ask all of my friends to support you.  Let’s show these terrorists that good and helping others will always overcome evil!  Let’s keep spreading the word of all of the good you have done and what we can do together.  I will help you in any way that I can.

With my sincerest appreciation and admiration,

Joe