Mercy Home Heroes Spotlight: Amanda Anderson
Without live sports during the COVID-19 pandemic, The Last Dance was a lifeline for spectators across the globe. While millions were gearing up for the final two episodes of the 10-part docuseries about Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls’ dynasty of the 90’s, ESPN Senior Manager of Social Media Amanda Anderson was hard at work behind the scenes.
Like the majority of viewers, Anderson can only dream of reaching the athletic pinnacle that Jordan and the Bulls did. But that hasn’t stopped her from finding her own piece of sports glory. Her championship moments take place on marathon race day.
“I think one of the attractive parts of a marathon is not so much the running, but it represents a mecca-athletic achievement for everyday people,” Anderson said. “I’m never going to go win an NBA title, but running a marathon is a sort of echelon of achievement that has always inspired and challenged me from afar.”
I think one of the attractive parts of a marathon is not so much the running, but it represents a mecca-athletic achievement for everyday people.
Like the 1997-98 Bulls, she is on a quest for her sixth. While studying abroad in 2010, she ran her first two marathons, in Barcelona and Paris. Later that year, she made it a three-peat by running the Bank of America Chicago Marathon.
After a great string of marathons in her first year, Anderson stepped away from the game. But in 2013, she was back, earning her fourth medal at the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, D.C. In 2015, she set her sights on number five back in Chicago. This time, though, she wore a different jersey.
Anderson is a graduate of St. Viator High School and knew that Mercy Home for Boys & Girls President Fr. Scott Donahue is as well. Her uncle also spent time at Mercy Home as a youth, so she was well-acquainted with the organization and the mission. When it came time to run marathon number five, she decided to become a Hero for our children.
“My favorite part was during the race itself when you run past the Home and the kids are there cheering for you and they see your green shirt,” Anderson recalls. “It puts into perspective not only what you’re doing in the marathon itself and the miles that you’re completing, but the bigger picture of being a small part of the Mercy Home mission.”
This year, Anderson has returned to the Heroes team and will run her sixth marathon. But the world looks a bit different than it did during her first five. Terms like “social distancing” and “shelter-in-place” are now part of our everyday vocabulary. For Anderson, who jokingly refers to herself as “The Laziest Marathon Runner On The Planet” on her Heroes fundraising page, the new normal has provided a boost to her training.
“I think running has been the number one thing that’s helped me stay grounded and focused throughout the pandemic,” she said. “In past marathons I’ve barely trained – I live a haphazard, scattered, undisciplined life. But this year, with the shelter-in-place, I’m having an amazing streak… I’m thinking I’ll be the most trained for this one than for any of the other five.”
In addition to training and running 26.2 miles on race day, Heroes challenge themselves by raising crucial funds for our kids. There are many ways to approach fundraising, and Anderson is leveraging her expertise in social media to gather donations. She recently set up a Facebook fundraiser on her birthday and was able to raise more than $600 in just one day.
One of the keys to success in her birthday fundraising campaign was making things easy for potential donors. Instead of linking to her Heroes fundraising page, she used the Facebook platform and had all donations go directly to Mercy Home. This allowed people to donate without having to leave Facebook and go to another page. She then contacted Mercy Home to add the names of her donors and specific amounts to her Heroes fundraising page.
I think running has been the number one thing that’s helped me stay grounded and focused throughout the pandemic.
“Taking your credit card out seems easy enough, but it is annoying,” Anderson explained. “If you’ve donated on Facebook before, it’s a simple user experience – boom, your credit card info is already there.”
As Anderson spends the summer months training and fundraising, she creates hope, healing, and opportunity for kids living at Mercy Home – which is just a short jog down the road from the house that Jordan built on Chicago’s near West Side. And though the 2020 Chicago Marathon will be her sixth, it may not be her last dance.
“Once you do one, it proves to yourself that you can do something that seems really impossible – if you put your mind to it,” Anderson explained. “It certainly increases your belief in yourself.”