It’s a sunny April day in New England. The air is still and the temperature is approaching a pleasant 70 degrees. The weather is a welcome relief for many New Englanders, happy to leave behind long, dark, cold winter days. Stretching at the Boston Marathon starting line, in her hometown of Hopkinton, MA, Hannah wears a blue and white singlet with the NECC and John Hancock logos emblazoned on the front. The names Anthony, Jason, Danny, Daniel, Brian, Jack and Dan are written horizontally on her calf in black marker.
Hannah has no fundraising or marathon training experience but eagerly accepted the challenge to run 26.2 miles and raise $9,000 within five months, because of how deeply she feels about her students.
“There is not a single person outside of NECC who can make me laugh, smile, empathize, and feel as much pride as my students can,” she says.
In January, Hannah ran through piles of heavy snow, in February, through even more snow and gray frigid days, and in March, through puddles of ice water, her toes numb, her fingertips raw. She sold baked goods, and organized yard sales and events at local businesses to reach her fundraising goal, all while working full time, attending graduate school, and managing weekly physical therapy visits. She developed plantar fasciitis, a painful condition from being on her feet each day combined with her rigorous training schedule.
On marathon day, as Hannah battles the unseasonably high temperatures, mild dehydration, and a crowd of 27,000 fellow runners, her family, friends, and NECC students cheer her on at various points on the marathon route. Hands down, she believes her students are the best part of her work. She helps them increase their independence but establishes meaningful relationships with them, too. Daniel loves listening to music on his iPod but is not keen on exercise. Knowing how music helps her complete her training sessions, Hannah brought Daniel’s iPod to the playground one afternoon to walk laps together, listening to his favorite tunes, “Today’s Hits” on Spotify. They walked side by side for a few minutes at a time.
By the end of that day, after several trips to the playground, Daniel walked without Hannah’s encouragement for 20 minutes. Hannah has found a way for Daniel to work on his fitness independently, combining what he enjoys with a challenging activity. Daniel now seeks Hannah to go to the playground to walk regularly.
“To cross the starting line with tens of thousands of other runners, but to do it with my students in my heart, and their names written in Sharpie on my calf, is really the greatest first marathon experience I could wish for,” says Hannah.
Hannah raised 117% of her goal, providing more than $10,500 to the NECC Annual Fund, which is used to fund student activities and support professional development.
Hannah is continuing her education through NECC’s on-site master’s degree program through Western New England University and plans to sit for the BCBA exam after graduation.