With less than 48 hours remaining until the start of the Chicago Marathon, our running team, the Mercy Home Heroes, enjoyed a family-style pasta dinner at our boys campus, courtesy of a long-time friend of Mercy Home for Boys & Girls, John Nitti.
After months of training, with hundreds of miles logged, the meal was a chance for the runners to relax and enjoy one another’s company before they gathered at the starting line on Sunday.
Amid the classic red-and-white checkered tablecloths and traditional rigatoni, Mercy Home Hero Pat Zamkin stepped forward to address his fellow runners. He wished to share why he was running the marathon for our boys and girls.
“I don’t mind telling the story if it has an impact [on the Home],” he said, his voice raw with emotion. “Honestly, when I got the email about getting involved in this … my immediate, knee-jerk reaction was: I’ll do it. Because someone did it for me.”
The former Mercy Home youth and current board member looked around the room. “There’s no distance that’s too great for Mercy Home, as far as I’m concerned.”
It was one of many remarkable moments that defined our Mercy Home Heroes this season. In spite of personal hardships—or perhaps, because of them—our Heroes knew running 26.2 miles was worth the care and support it brought our boys and girls.
Running alongside Zamkin were more than 150 fellow Mercy Home Heroes, including 10 other board members and 12 co-workers, each with the same commitment to raise critical funds and awareness on behalf of our children.
Many of these Heroes were seated alongside Zamkin at the pasta dinner that night, as well as Carey Pinkowski, Executive Race Director of the Chicago Marathon.
Pinkowski welcomed the 63 first-time marathon runners and the entire Mercy Home Heroes team, numbering over 200, and congratulated them for raising, so far, over $300,000, on behalf of our kids.
He also shared a passionate call for help—a plea to inspire more participants to run in support of charitable causes.
“Those of you that are running for Mercy Home … when … you’re lining up against people, ask them who they’re running for,” he said. “If they say, ‘I’m not running for anybody,’ just tell them, ‘why not?’ Tell them who you’re running for, why you’re running for … [and] let’s help Fr. Scott take more of these kids out of this madness and into an environment like [Mercy Home].”
Fr. Scott shared words of gratitude with our Heroes as well, thanking them for joining our marathon team—including his niece, Colleen Donahue—and remarked on the impact their dedication has had on our young people.
“I’ll do it. Because someone did it for me. There’s no distance that’s too great for Mercy Home.” – Pat Zamkin
“We figure, in our history, well over twenty-eight thousand young men and women who have experienced trauma and tragedy in their lives have come through the old oak door, and have found a place of hospitality, a place of healing and, truly, a home,” he said. “None of that would be possible … without all the Heroes sitting around the room right now.”
He then called forward Mercy Home Hero Sandra Moore.
Moore and her husband, Shelby, had run the Chicago Marathon four times already in support of our boys and girls, said Fr. Scott. “They loved the home and they loved this mission. They loved running for our kids.”
Four months ago, as they were training together in a nearby park, Shelby Moore suffered a heart attack, collapsed, and passed away.
“Sandra decided she was going to continue to run the marathon,” said Fr. Scott. “For her husband, and for our boys and girls.”
To honor Moore and her husband, Fr. Scott presented Sandra with a gift—a crystal statuette of an angel. “It’s a symbol we use around here,” said Fr. Scott, to signify the many ways our friends and supporters serve as examples of Christ’s mercy to our kids.
“Angels are messengers of God,” he continued. “And so, please accept this from [our] children, from my coworkers—really given to you and to your wonderful husband, and given to your good hearts—and know that this messenger of God speaks on behalf of all of us saying thank you, God bless you.”
Moore received the gift to a standing ovation from her fellow Heroes, and took time to share words of gratitude with the Mercy Home family.
“Before my husband died, we used to run the marathon every other year,” she said. “This organization meant so much to him.”
Moore remembers that, after her husband passed, “I really didn’t want to run. My husband wasn’t with me and we did everything together … This has been a very, very, hard time for me in my life … I know my husband is with the Lord now, and I know he would want me to do this. So I’m doing this run in honor of him and I know his spirit is going to be there to take me to the next chapter in my life. And I just want to thank everybody who’s just been a part of this. It would really mean a lot to my husband, and it means a lot to me. I just want to keep his legacy alive.”
Zamkin and Moore would go on to run the first half of the marathon together, supporting one another in their commitment to Mercy Home.
They and the other 40,000 athletes received a boost of support at Mile 16 in the West Loop, where they were greeted by Fr. Scott and our passionate Mercy Home Cheering Station on the “Mercy Mile!” Mercy Home kids, co-workers, family and friends gathered along the block to cheer on the marathoners as they raced past. Mercy Home coworkers and volunteers took turns leading chants and cheers of encouragement, and local radio stations blasted lively music to give the runners a fun and festive welcome.
After finishing their tour through Chicago, many Heroes and their families gathered at the DePaul University Student Center, where they received applause and congratulations from volunteers. Zamkin and Moore each returned to much celebration and immediately sought out one another to recount their race experience.
The Heroes enjoyed many of the post-race festivities with their loved ones—including photo ops, dinner, drink, and massages—before leaving for some well-deserved rest.
Our deepest thanks go out to everyone who helped make marathon day a success, including our Mercy Home Heroes, coworkers, and board members for proving no distance is too great for our kids; every Mercy Home co-worker and volunteer who ensured our runners had the support they needed during their journey; DePaul University, for once again sharing their facilities; our sponsors, for supporting this wonderful day; and finally, every member of our Mercy Home family who came out to celebrate the runners on race day!