April 10, 2023

On Marathon Monday, Norwell native Emily McKenna will combine her love for running and her younger brother, Michael, by running the 127th Boston Marathon as a member of The New England Center for Children’s (NECC) charity team.

Michael was diagnosed with autism at just 18 months old and due to the severity of his needs, including limited social skills, non-verbal communication, and self-injurious behaviors, he was unable to live at home. Michael came to NECC as a residential student when he was just 4 years old, where he has been thriving for the last 17 years.

“Because of NECC, Michael has developed communication skills, and now enjoys activities like swimming and watching his favorite TV shows,” shared McKenna. “Running 26.2 miles is easy compared to the difficult daily lives of each child affected by autism.”

With the recently released report by the CDC that now 1 in 36 children are diagnosed with autism, McKenna knows it’s more important than ever to raise funds for organizations like NECC. “I am running to support my brother and to also raise awareness for other kids with disabilities in our community,” said McKenna. “NECC is a unique school that advocates for kids like Michael and ensures each student has the resources, education, and safety they need.”

While this will be the 23-year-old’s first marathon, it won’t be her first race as a member of Team NECC. McKenna, who has been running 5Ks since middle school and as a member of the Norwell Track Club, ran her first Falmouth Road Race raising money for NECC when she was just 14. McKenna has since run the annual 7-mile race on the Cape for Team NECC five more times, often alongside her mother and youngest brother, Matthew.

In January, McKenna relocated to Washington, DC, to attend graduate school and now works as a staffer in the United States Senate. She is looking forward to coming home for the Boston Marathon and soaking up every moment. “I am looking forward to the exciting atmosphere and the opportunity to run on one of the most historic and challenging racecourses in the world,” she said.

McKenna added that she hopes to see the impact her fundraising has on NECC students. “My brother has received the highest quality education and services from the school,” she said. “He has made so many improvements in his daily living and leisure skills and our family will be forever grateful for NECC.” 

To support McKenna’s efforts, visit her Boston Marathon fundraising page.