Going the Distance for Our Kids

Going the Distance for Our Kids

Group picture of 2019 Mercy Home Heroes

Last Sunday was the Mercy Home Heroes’ time to shine as they supported our kids by running the Bank of Chicago Marathon!

And our 319-person strong team truly did shine as they heroically persevered through the 26.2-mile run, proving to our boys and girls that, with hard work, anything is possible.

Of course, the highlight of that route is the “Mercy Mile” on West Jackson Boulevard in the West Loop, where Mercy Home hosts the best cheer station party on the route and gives our Heroes the encouragement they need to make it across the finish line.

One party isn’t enough for our Heroes, however—there was another party waiting for them at DePaul University’s student center, our “Heroes Headquarters,” where each of our runners was greeted with a Hero’s welcome, refreshments, hugs from loved ones, and complimentary massages to soothe their sore, tired muscles.

Race weekend kicked off on Friday when our Heroes and their friends and family came together for the annual pasta dinner to feast on carbohydrates and soak up any pre-race motivation.

Around 280 guests – including 107 Heroes from across the United States and even a few other countries – packed the Soccer Building to enjoy a delicious Italian feast provided by John and Janet Nitti of Isola Foods.

Fr. Scott and Mercy Home heroes at pasta dinner
Group photo of Mercy home heroes at pasta party

As the event’s MC, Mercy Home Heroes Coordinator Jim Harding began the night with words of gratitude before introducing Fr. Scott Donahue, who offered his blessing and words of encouragement after thanking Harding for his enthusiasm and leadership in organizing the Heroes program all year long. After speaking about Mercy Home, Fr. Scott turned his attention to the Heroes.

“I want you to know how grateful I am to each and every one of you,” said Father Scott. “For your generosity, for your compassion, for your heart, for your courage, for your willingness to be a Hero for our young people here at Mercy Home for Boys & Girls. On behalf of all the children and families entrusted to our care, we are deeply grateful.”

Harding then introduced Carey Pinkowski, who celebrated his 30th year as Director of the Bank of America Chicago Marathon. In honor of Pinkowski, Bank of America donated $30,000 to Mercy Home at the event’s official kickoff press conference on Thursday.

“I just wanted to thank you all for supporting Mercy Home,” Pinkowski said to the Heroes. “I’ve known this group and Father Scott for a long time. The work they do here is amazing, and they continue to do this work at a time when it’s most important.”

Pinkowski encouraged the Heroes, as they ran by Mercy Home, to tap the nearest runner on the shoulder and tell them about our Home’s mission.

“You are the best ambassadors. You’re the best people to promote and spread the word,” he said. “Point to the building and point to Father Scott—because he’ll be out there—and tell them this is the guy behind all the efforts here.”

Harding then recognized John and Janet Nitti, who’ve been feeding Heroes for years, as well as chocolatier Kevin Roblee, who makes his gourmet KOKKU chocolates here at Mercy Home. Roblee provided desserts at each table.

Next, Harding introduced Mercy Home’s very own Carlos, who’s not only a resident of Kelly Home, but also the youngest Mercy Home Hero. As the featured youth speaker, Carlos spoke about challenges he’s faced and the gratitude he has for Mercy Home and the Heroes. As he prepared to tackle his first marathon, he also spoke about how running serves as a kind of therapy for him—one that brings him joy.

“Just like running brings me joy, so do you. Your support not only lifts me up, it lifts all the young people who live at Mercy Home,” he said, addressing the Heroes. “Thank you for going the distance for me and all the young people at Mercy Home.”

Harding also awarded special plaques to John and Janet Nitti, and longtime friend of the Home Jim Jenness, who was not only running in his 29th consecutive Chicago Marathon, but once again provided a $100,000 matching gift this year. Hero Nancy Ianotta, who was recently diagnosed with breast cancer and unable to run, was also awarded a plaque. As she continues her fight, our Mercy Home family will keep her in our thoughts and prayers.

Group photo of top ten Mercy Home heroes

Before offering final words of gratitude, Harding closed out the night with a glimpse of things to come. “One of the greatest moments you’ll experience Sunday is running past the Mercy Mile, just before Mile 17 on Jackson,” he said. “Be sure to wear your jersey on your outermost layer and stay left for the best high-fives.”

On Sunday, our Heroes rose in the earliest hours of the morning to take on the ultimate challenge of running an entire marathon. As they ran through the city, they were cheered on by thousands of citizens—though not as loudly anywhere as at the Mercy Mile. As they were greeted by Fr. Scott, coworkers, friends, family, neighbors, and our kids, the smiles on their faces showed they were seeing the best of Mercy Home. We were honored to welcome so many friends to our Home to cheer on our runners!

Excited runner at the 2019 Mercy Mile Marathon
Mercy Home youth Carlos at HQ after running marathon

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