It all started with a poster.

Maggie Fobare, Ryan Ferm, and Marty Flavin, all Starcom employees, didn’t see the poster hanging in their office that advertised an opportunity to run the Bank of Chicago Marathon to raise money for Mercy Home at the same time. But it sparked the same idea in all of them. They decided to become a member of both their corporate team and the Mercy Home Heroes by committing to running 26.2 miles.

“I had seen that [poster] pretty regularly for a while and then one day I finally decided I would pull the trigger and do it,” Ryan said.

Neither he nor Maggie had heard of Mercy Home before, but they liked the mission after researching it. Marty, on the other hand, had more of a history with Mercy Home—his parents were supporters of the Home and his sister interned here.

“I had been to Mercy Home, seen it, heard of it, knew it was a good cause … [that was one of] the reasons I got involved,” he said. He also named wanting a greater athletic challenge and the chance to get to know some coworkers better as motivating factors.

Starcom’s connection with Mercy Home actually began even earlier. In 2017, a group of sub-brands of the company Publicis, including Starcom, put some money toward sponsoring a marathon team to run with the Mercy Home Heroes.

“That gave us an opportunity to bring everyone together into the Mercy Home team within Publicis and it created a nice little group of people from all different backgrounds,” John Sheehy, the Global Brand President at Starcom and a Board of Regents member at Mercy Home, said.

“We really bonded together in the spirit of helping Mercy Home and helping the kids. … The benefit to us was just a really strong community, a sense of pride in doing something for the kids, and supporting Mercy Home. And then when all was said and done, I think we raised close to $90,000 [including] the corporate funds.”

In 2018, their team grew to 30 members, including Ryan, Marty, and Maggie.

“We really bonded together in the spirit of helping Mercy Home and helping the kids. … The benefit to us was just a really strong community, a sense of pride in doing something for the kids, and supporting Mercy Home.”

While none of the three had previously run a marathon, they came from athletic backgrounds and were up to the challenge.

“In the beginning, I think I trained mostly on my own,” Maggie said. “I played lacrosse in college [and] started out with a little bit of a background in running.”

Marty, however, had a different take on running.

“I grew up playing football, so running was punishment,” he laughed. “Because I’ve never run one before, I didn’t understand how big of a deal it was, but I just thought this could be a good athletic challenge.”

During Maggie’s training, she took the opportunity have fun and set her own pace.

“The moment it became no longer fun I wouldn’t keep doing it,” she said.

“I wasn’t aiming for 7-minute miles; I really wanted to enjoy the process [of] training with friends. I definitely think that helped my training schedule.”

During training, some of the Starcom employees would meet early at the office and go on runs together. They also did runs with Mercy Home’s training partners. Some completed runs with other Heroes and Heroes coordinator Jim Harding, allowing them to make connections with those outside their company.

“I got to know some runners who were outside the Starcom Publicis network a little bit, to hear about their motivation, the reasons they were choosing to run and support Mercy Home,” Marty said.

“I knew I would be putting in a lot; I had no idea I would be getting so much back in return for running. I thought it would be as simple as raising a few dollars. In the end, I almost missed being able to be involved with Mercy Home in some way. I really appreciated all the support people gave over there. It was really nice.”

He also noted that the support he got from Mercy Home was helpful in reaching his fundraising goal.

“Mercy Home made it so easy to fundraise,” he said. “From day one, the kickoff dinner you had, you guys had video booths available to do video testimonies. … I was so shocked and touched at how many people I reached out to, whether it was friends or family, coworkers, and asked for support and donations for the Home, just how many people knew of Mercy Home and how many people were excited to help and contribute to my efforts.”

Maggie also noted that Jim made the entire Starcom team enjoy their Heroes experience.

“Jim goes above and beyond and out of his way to make Starcom feel welcomed,” she said. “He came to our office a few times to talk to us, for lunch, he had drinks in the lobby of our office [with us]. I think we were lucky in that. I was definitely blown away by how hands-on he was.”

“Mercy Home made it so easy to fundraise”

The highlight of the experience for all three, however, was race day and taking advantage of the Hero Headquarters at DePaul University in the Chicago Loop.

“It was just really cool to have a place really close to the starting line where our corral was, have everybody together,” Ryan said. “Obviously, I knew a lot of people from Starcom that ran it, but just seeing a lot of familiar faces that I saw at the pasta party from Friday … just having the camaraderie of the people both working with Mercy Home and people running for Mercy Home was just a really cool experience.”

Marty said that he wasn’t able to calm down until he got to the headquarters the morning of the race.

“Just the day of, going to bed and waking up early, not being able to sleep as much and knowing by the time I get to the Mercy Home headquarters, I’m going to be able to calm down,” he said. “Everything is taken care of there. … You’re kind of leaving from this place of discomfort in a way to going to a place like the Mercy Home headquarters where you could finally breathe easy and relax a little bit before the race.”

“I was very, very impressed,” Maggie said. “I thought there was everything you could have needed before and after. It was really nice to have a central location where you could all meet up.”

Marty said that while he ran, he had Mercy Home’s after-party motivating him to keep going, along with the Mercy Mile.

“I remember really looking forward to Mile 17 especially, passing Mercy Home,” he said. “I knew I’d need a boost at that point and I couldn’t get over the crowds out there, the enthusiasm.”

“What fueled me the rest of the race was the post-race party at the Hero Headquarters. I had a bunch of family members and friends come to the headquarters to celebrate with me and I just remember at Mile 20 just thinking to myself, ‘don’t be late for the party’. I’m not just saying that, it really fueled me through.”

And now, with their first marathon under their belt, all three are eager to continue running with Mercy Home. Maggie and Ryan have already signed up for the 2019 marathon, and Marty is torn between running again or being part of the cheer team.

“It was such a fulfilling experience, both personally with overcoming a goal of running 26.2 miles that I never thought possible a year ago, as well as just raising all the money and working with all these amazing people and helping out the kids,” Ryan said. “It’s just fulfilling and an extremely rewarding experience that I definitely wanted to do again.”

“[After] actually running for [Mercy Home] last year, I can’t imagine running for anyone else,” Maggie said. “I think it’s such a great program. I hope to be part of it for a long time to come. There’s no question that I want to run for Mercy Home again.”

For those on the fence about running a marathon or becoming a Hero, both Ryan and Marty have the same advice: just do it.

“It’s something that you have to just pull the trigger on,” Ryan said. “If you’re even considering it, then I think you should do it because it’s so rewarding and fulfilling. You’ll meet a lot of great people and you’ll know you overcame a personal obstacle as well as helped out endless amounts of kids with the fundraising and all the hard work you put in.”

“Sign up and worry how to finish later,” Marty said. “There were so many ways Mercy Home made it easy to figure out how to train, where to train, hooking you up with running clubs—Mercy Home takes care of everything, you just have to worry about running the miles.”

And if nothing else, let the boys and girls of Mercy Home motivate you, John said.

“I just think what Mercy Home does for the kids and the community is extraordinary. I don’t think there’s another program quite like it. The values, the education, the safety, the self-confidence, the hope, and the way that this program is able to change lives. “

We are so grateful to friends and Heroes like John, Marty, Ryan, and Maggie for their commitment to our kids. They certainly have gone the extra mile to support our mission!

“I remember really looking forward to Mile 17 especially, passing Mercy Home,” he said. “I knew I’d need a boost at that point and I couldn’t get over the crowds out there, the enthusiasm.”