Unlikely Hero Tackles Chicago Marathon

Unlikely Hero Tackles Chicago Marathon

Standing out amidst the thousands of compact running physiques that will sweep through 26.2 miles of Chicago’s streetgrid this Sunday will be a 6’2”, 240 pound former Division I nose guard named Tom Gilardi. Throughout this, his seventh marathon, he will carry the hopes of hundreds of abused and neglected kids on his broad shoulders.

Gilardi is built for hauling such heavy responsibility, as he oversees the direct daily care of more than 134 of the city’s most vulnerable youth who live at Mercy Home for Boys & Girls. On Sunday, he will go the extra mile to help these young people by running the Bank of America Chicago Marathon and raising funds for the Home. Giving Gilardi the encouragement to complete those last ten miles will be youth, staff, friends and family who will gather at our home on West Jackson Boulevard to watch the race pass by at Mile 16.

As a football scholarship recipient to the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, MA, Gilardi knows he doesn’t look like your typical distance runner. But he said he enjoys the physical and mental challenges of completing one of the nation’s premier sporting events.

“Life is a journey, you will experience adversity, you need help from others, and you can’t give up. Our kids have experienced tremendous trauma in their young lives and yet possess resilience and fight.”

The desire to push himself and to help others has guided every step of Gilardi’s career. He began in corporate banking, but left to pursue a calling in the Jesuit Volunteer Corps in 1991. There, he helped exconvicts in Milwaukee, WI make permanent and successful transitions back into the community. Later he worked with troubled kids on horse ranch in Idaho. He has worked in numerous capacities at Mercy Home and has headed all youth programs at the Home since 2007. It’s these children that will inspire Gilardi to push on toward the finish line.

“The marathon is a perfect metaphor for our kids,” Gilardi said. “Life is a journey, you will experience adversity, you need help from others, and you can’t give up. Our kids have experienced tremendous trauma in their young lives and yet possess resilience and fight.” On the eve of Sunday’s race, Gilardi sees his participation not only as another way to give back to the kids whose healing and growth he helps guide, but also as a valuable teaching opportunity. “We want our kids to know that with hard work, focus, and commitment, anything is possible.” Along the route, the big man will grow even more. “In a small way, training for and running the marathon provides me a very tangible opportunity to focus on something bigger than myself, that requires dedication, that stretches me out of my comfort zone, and that requires me to reach out for help from others,” he said. Gilardi won’t be alone in logging miles for Mercy Home.

He will also be joined by more than 250 runners who support kids as part of the Mercy Home Heroes team, which continues to grow each year, as does the Mile 16 cheer station party at Mercy Home. One Hero, Kellogg Company Chairman and former CEO Jim Jenness, was recently honored with the marathon’s Richard M. Daley and Maggie Daley Award for raising the most funds for charity through the annual world class event. As a member of the Mercy Home Heroes team, Jenness raised more than $81,000. He will run his 24th consecutive Chicago marathon for Mercy Home this Sunday. Another Hero, who was featured on the Marathon’s website, is former resident James Le. The DePaul University student lived at Mercy Home for four and a half years before serving his country in the United States Navy. He said he’s running the marathon out of gratitude to the Home for helping him succeed in life.

Comments

0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Discover More

Comments

0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *