Another Marathon Challenge: BronxWorks Drives to Raise Funds

Many marathon runners are driven by the challenge or are attempting to fulfill a childhood dream. But for nearly one-fifth of the runners in the New York City Marathon, personal motivations are beside the point.

Among them are the runners backing BronxWorks.

This human services organization, based in the Bronx, set out to raise $13,000 through the efforts of five runners in the 2017 marathon. The money will go toward the organization’s children and youth programs, which provide after-school programs, summer day camps and college-preparation classes. 

In this Oct. 6, 2017, photo, Gianna Dell’Olio introduces charity marathon runners Sarah Seng and Jessie Leete to the beneficiaries at BronxWorks on Grand Concourse in the Bronx. (Photo by Avery Miles)

Sara Seng, community health program director at BronxWorks, first started running as a way to de-stress. Now she runs to support the cause. Each runner for BronxWorks must raise a minimum of $2,500 in order to meet a requirement of New York City Road Runners, the organizer of the marathon.

Fulfilling this requirement has been a challenge, Seng said.

She was able to raise $1,000 through Instagram and Facebook. But after the donations plateaued, she still did not have enough.  In a creative effort, Seng baked zucchini bread and red velvet cupcakes to sell.

The fundraising process also ebbed and flowed for 27-year-old art therapist, Jessie Leete.

“I just found that I didn’t want to be that annoying person on Facebook,” Leete said, constantly updating her status with, “still running, still running.”

The Long Island native said her hometown community of Floral Park, New York, helped her along the way. She managed to raise $1,000 from one fundraiser held at a bar in Astoria.

To gather the remaining $67 she needed, seasoned marathon runner Damali Thomas planned to turn to her local church congregation in Delaware. Originally from the Bronx, the 37-year-old banker wanted to give back to the community she still calls home. Thomas also got involved for her father, who died a few years ago, She wanted to fulfill a lifelong dream to run the same marathon he did when she was little.

“It took him passing away for me to run it,” she said.  

“In past years, we had 10 runners who were volunteering and we bumped that down to five because we had issues with people signing up and being reliable enough,” said Evan Hahn, BronxWorks Digital and Content Manager. But this year, Hahn feels grateful he did not have to badger the runners about meeting their fundraising goals.

“It becomes a nerve-wracking thing,” he said.

BronxWorks’s fundraising struggle was not in vain. The organization exceeded their goal and raised $13,204 during the 2017 New York City Marathon.

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