April 4, 2024

On April 15, The New England Center for Children (NECC) will have ten runners participate in the 128th Boston Marathon® presented by Bank of America, in order to shine a spotlight on the importance of autism education.  These runners—a mix of NECC staff, family, and friends—have spent the last several months training for the iconic 26.2-mile course from Hopkinton to Boston while raising funds and awareness for the students at NECC. This year’s team is comprised of runners from across the U.S., including Connecticut, Florida, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, and Texas, all with the goal to raise awareness for autism, special needs, and NECC’s work in their own communities.

Over the last 15 years, Team NECC runners have raised nearly $1 million in crucial funds for NECC students through the Boston Athletic Association’s (BAA) non-profit charity program. Every dollar raised by NECC’s Boston Marathon runners directly benefits students through the Annual Fund, which funds crucial areas not covered by tuition, such as student activities, individual student needs, off-campus activities, specialized technology, student equipment and materials, and vocational opportunities. It also supports NECC staff development, research and training opportunities, as well as DEI initiatives and employee resource groups.

Read more about our runners and their reasons for being part of Team NECC below. 

David Baker

David Baker

Houston, TX native David Baker will run the 128th Boston Marathon presented by Bank of America for Team NECC in honor of his sister, Tiffany, who has autism and for whom he is a caregiver. 

“This is an awesome way to give back to a cause that is doing great things for students and their families,” said David, who owns a digital marketing business.

David began running in high school, when he was over 200 pounds, and found it to be a great outlet for exercise and healthy stress relief. He hasn’t looked back; he has since run eight full marathons and has a goal to run all the World Marathon Majors. He has already checked two of the six off his list – New York City and Chicago – while raising money for different charities. However, his passion is spreading autism awareness, and he also works within his Houston community to help individuals with autism.

“I am so excited to run Boston, and I plan to take in the entire experience,” David said. “Regardless of how you earn your spot on the starting line of the Boston Marathon, you have worked hard to get there. I am most excited to feel accomplished and know that if there is something in my life that I want, I can achieve it with hard work and dedication.”

Donate to David’s campaign benefitting NECC.

Michael Boisvert

Michael Boisvert

For Michael Boisvert, running started off as an activity to get him out of the house during the COVID pandemic. In less than two weeks, he will toe the line in Hopkinton to run the Boston Marathon, his first-ever marathon.

Michael, an Abington, MA native and current Charlotte, NC resident, decided to run the Boston Marathon for The New England Center for Children (NECC) in honor of his daughter. “My daughter has special needs and many of her friends have autism,” he explained. “I have had the opportunity to meet and get to know many children and families in the special needs community.”

During COVID, when schools and gyms were closed, Michael, an insurance broker, would get his workouts from running outside, and joined a run group toward the end of the pandemic. In the last few years, he’s run a number of half marathons and other races but is looking forward to the opportunity to run “a world-class race and raise funds for a world-class organization.”

Michael has a list of things he wants to gain from his first marathon experience. “I am hoping to reinforce a sense of gratitude. For my body and its abilities, for my position in life to be able to generate support for a great group like NECC, and for my amazing family and how we support each other in so many ways,” he shared.

“I am also looking forward to the ‘buzz’ of an international event and the ‘buzz’ of my first beer post 26.2 miles!”

Donate to Michael’s campaign here.

Jeff Desloge

jeff deslogeOn Marathon Monday, Jeff Desloge is looking forward to running by his alma mater Boston College and representing a cause close to his heart: autism awareness. Jeff, a current Boston resident originally from St. Louis, will be running the Boston Marathon as a member of Team NECC in honor of his younger sister, Faith, who was diagnosed with cerebral palsy and autism when she was 6 months old.

“There is no cause that I am more passionate about than supporting children and families affected by autism, because it is something I have lived,” said Jeff, a biotech investment banking analyst. “I wanted to use this race as an opportunity to highlight the light that kids with autism can shine in the face of the struggles they endure, but also support the families that are struggling with a diagnosis, because I know how difficult it can be.”

Though Boston will be his first marathon, Jeff finds running rewarding beyond just the physical benefits. “Two years ago, a friend and I were inspired to do a half marathon and it was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life, finding the strength to achieve a goal that at one time seemed impossible,” he explained. “Ever since then I’ve really grown to enjoy the journey of striving to become better at running, and the challenge it presents.”

He is hoping to gain a similar experience from training for Boston. “I wanted to show myself that I could show up for a big goal every day,” he added. “The training was the really enriching part. The marathon will be the fun part! The past five months have been filled with so many highs and lows but I’m grateful for everything I’ve learned, and I can’t wait for the magic of the big day and seeing my friends and family along the way.”

Support Jeff here.

Oliver Ferrari

oliver ferrariOn Monday, April 15, Dover, MA native Oliver Ferrari will toe the start line in Hopkinton as a member of NECC’s Boston Marathon team. Oliver learned about NECC from his involvement in the MetroWest chapter of the Business Networking International (BNI) and fell in love with the mission and vision of the organization, as well as the impact it has on the community.

“It’s amazing how successful students can become when they are believed in,” Oliver said. “Regardless of disability, all people deserve to reach what success means to them. The New England Center for Children helps make this happen for so many students. I couldn’t be more grateful to run on Team NECC to spread the message of learning equality.”

Last August, Oliver ran the Falmouth Road Race for Team NECC, raising more than $1,700 for the students and staff at NECC, but decided to take on the Boston Marathon to have an even greater impact.

Click here to support Oliver.

Helen Hedman

helen hedmanHelen Hedman, a senior education coordinator for NECC, would do anything for her students. Including running 26.2 miles while raising money as a member of NECC’s Boston Marathon team.

“I decided to run the Boston Marathon for Team NECC to give back to my students who have taught me so much about myself, and to give back to the school that has allowed me to advance in my education and career,” said Helen. “I wanted to run to help raise funds that will directly impact the students at NECC.”

Helen, a Connecticut native and current Boston resident, joined NECC as a teacher upon graduating from Hartwick College in 2018. Since then, she has served in a number of roles and earned her master’s degree through NECC’s partnership with Simmons University. While training for the marathon and fundraising for NECC, Helen has learned just how passionate she is about advocating for her students, a feeling that has grown exponentially in the six years she has worked at NECC.

“I have been able to see the positive impact the school has on so many students’ lives and the families who support them,” she said. “I have learned so much from every one of my students.”

Learn more about or donate to Helen here.

Anne Normand

anne normandOn April 15, Anne Normand, an orthopedic surgeon from Duluth, MN, will run her 14th Boston Marathon, once again raising funds for The New England Center for Children (NECC). As a member of Team NECC, Anne, a Beverly, MA native, is combining her love for the Boston Marathon with the opportunity to raise money for a group dedicated to making the world a better place for people with autism.

“Both personally and professionally, I have witnessed the challenges autism can pose for families,” she said. “Individual stories aren’t mine to tell, but the benefits of education, vocational training, and research are clear.”

Anne and her husband were introduced to NECC several years ago and have been supporters of the Center ever since. As part of her dedication to NECC, Anne has raised funds as a member of the Team NECC Boston Marathon team despite qualifying for her own bib for the race.

“Together, we can create a brighter future for children with autism and ensure they receive the support they deserve,” she shared.

Donate to Anne here.

Tobey Stohr

Tobey StohrBoston resident Tobey Stohr, a cybersecurity sales rep and yoga instructor, decided to run the 128th Boston Marathon presented by Bank of America for Team NECC after taking a tour of NECC’s headquarters in Southborough.

“After touring NECC, it was evident that this is an amazing organization doing incredible work for spectacular humans,” he said.

Tobey began running in 2016 as a form of “meditation and getting my physical and mental health back in order,” and has since run a number of races, including the New York City Marathon in 2018. However, running the Boston Marathon has always been a goal. “Having moved to Boston when I was 8 years old from Switzerland, the Boston Marathon has always held a special place in my heart,” he said. “I promised myself I wouldn’t attempt to run it until I found an organization that believed in similar values around education, inclusivity, and continuous progression.”

He’s looking forward to enjoying the journey and having fun, and “seeing all of the amazing people of Boston flood the streets for an amazing experience!” he shared. “I can’t wait to hug those I love after I finish!”

Donate to Tobey here. 

Patrick Story

Pat StoryNatick resident Patrick Story has worked for NECC for 15 years and is continuously inspired by the students and teachers with whom he works.

“I started my job not knowing anything about autism or the children, families, and communities it affects. Over the years, I’ve learned so much about autism and have seen the fantastic work the teachers and staff do to support the amazing students at NECC,” shared Pat, who has had a number of positions at NECC over the years and currently works as an assistant director in the project management office at NECC.

Though he’s never run a marathon—or anything more than a 5K prior to running the Falmouth Road Race for Team NECC last August—he has seen “firsthand the vast opportunities and services the money raised from the Boston Marathon provides to the students, and it inspires me to challenge myself to complete this difficult race for them,” he explained.

Pat added that he’s never considered himself a runner, but during a recent 12-mile training run, he now knows it’s something he wants to continue after the Boston Marathon. “There are so many things that I’ve already gained as part of my Boston Marathon journey,” he said. “The sense of community and friendships, as well as knowledge, I’ve gotten from the Marathon Coalition training group, and the mental clarity and continual achieving of goals from running has provided new perspectives on how to tackle life’s toughest problems.”

On race day, Pat will be soaking up the opportunity to compete on the same course as the greatest runners in the world. “Having always grown up wanting to be a professional athlete, this will be the closest thing I will get to that dream.”

Support Pat and his campaign for NECC here

Alexander Torres

alexander torresAlexander Torres, a rheumatologist from Lithia, FL, has a deep connection with the special needs community: his first-born child, Sophia, is globally delayed. Sophia’s condition—she is wheelchair bound and has had multiple surgeries— has fueled Alex’s involvement in the autism community, spreading awareness, and more importantly, running the Boston Marathon and raising money for NECC.

On April 15, Alex will take on the Boston Marathon in of honor his 12-year-old daughter and all children with autism and severe special needs.

Donate to Alex’s campaign here.

Elizabeth Tso

Elizabeth TsoElizabeth Tso has seen firsthand how NECC can change the lives of its students and their families. Hers was one of them.

“Before NECC, my brother, Jamie, was basically non-verbal, ate few foods, and had limited access to activities. Now, because of NECC’s therapies and incredible teachers, Jamie is a happy, bubbly young man who has learned life skills,” she shared. “NECC changed his life, and, by extension, my family’s.”

Elizabeth, a native of Greenwich, CT who currently lives in New York City where she works as an associate for Morgan Stanley, is hoping to convert her passion for running into funds for NECC. She began running in high school and has completed a number of half marathons and other races—including the 2023 Falmouth Road Race as a member of Team NECC. Boston will be her first full marathon.

“The Boston Marathon has always had a special place in my heart since I went to school in Cambridge,” shared the Phillips Academy and MIT alumnus. “Running Boston for NECC seemed like the perfect and most meaningful first marathon possible.”

Elizabeth has spent the last six months dedicating herself to training for Boston. “I wanted to put my best foot forward and be able to look back and say that I truly gave this race my full 100 percent,” she said. “I love running because what you put in is what you get out; dedication and effort translates pretty meaningfully into results, which I find extremely satisfying.  I’ve gained respect for my physical and mental capabilities throughout training, and I’m excited to see what I’m capable of on race day.”

To donate to Elizabeth’s campaign benefitting NECC.