Meet Boston Marathon Runner Rachel Dill

By Emme Punches,
Special Olympics Massachusetts Events Coordinator

Special Olympics Massachusetts is excited to have one of our own running the 2017 Boston Marathon. Rachel Dill, Director of Development and Partnerships, is an inspiration to us all. Her dedication, heart and ambition are unparalleled and while we could rave about her all day, we thought it best she tell her story in her own words.

“Six years ago, I had the crazy idea that I wanted to run a marathon before I turned 30. It couldn’t be just any marathon, it had to be Boston. Fast forward to today and it just so happens that the 2017 Boston Marathon falls exactly one month before my 30th birthday. Running the marathon has been in the back of my mind every year for the last six years and I knew that one day I would follow through on this personal goal.

“My connection to Special Olympics Massachusetts runs deep. My sister Jenny has special needs. She is 31 years old and has a developmental delay and learning disability. Jenny is one of the most kind and compassionate individuals I know and never fails to put a smile on my face no matter the circumstance.

Jenny & Rachel celebrating Jenny’s 31st birthday at her favorite Thai restaurant!!

“Jenny started competing in track and field with Special Olympics Massachusetts when she was ten years old. (This happens to be the same time I became involved and became president of the Jenny Dill Fan Club.) As we grew older, she continued to participate and I evolved from spectator, to volunteer, to fundraiser, and finally to a dedicated staff member at Special Olympics Massachusetts. For as long as I can remember, I have seen what a positive impact sports has had on my sister. Sports has helped Jenny develop better fitness, expanded her endless social circle, encouraged her to have confidence, and allowed her to experience the pure joy and excitement of winning a medal after a competition. She has taught me so much about myself and the importance of accepting others regardless of their situation. Jenny has truly shaped the person I am today. Having a sister with special needs has only enhanced my experience of one of the most amazing bonds in life: sisterhood.”

All of us at Special Olympics Massachusetts can’t wait to cheer her on as she crosses the Boston Marathon finish line. Go Rachel!

Support Rachel’s Boston Marathon Fundraising Effort Today!

Marathon Spotlight: Sue Freidus

Originally appeared as an article on the Corning intranet:

Sue Freidus Profile PhotoWith every step she takes in the 2016 Boston Marathon this month Sue Freidus will be helping athletes with intellectual disabilities experience the joy of sports and celebration.

Sue, digital program manager for Corning Life Sciences, has pledged to raise $10,000 for Special Olympics Massachusetts. The Funds she is raising will allow as many as 26 athletes to attend a year’s worth of training, meets, and other Special Olympics events throughout the state.

In exchange for her pledge, Sue earned a place at the starting line for one of the world’s premier sporting events.

“Special Olympics is such a great organization,” said Sue, who will turn 55 years-old just before the April 18 race. “It’s been a real joy preparing for all this – and I can hardly believe the marathon is almost here.”

Sue, a native of Newton, Massachusetts, was a spectator at many Boston Marathons as she was growing up. She admired not only the traditional runners, but also the wheelchair athletes – all of them strong and determined as they raced along Commonwealth Avenue.

At the same time, she was deeply moved by Eunice Kennedy Shriver, another Bostonian, who founded Special Olympics in 1968.

“We always followed what she was doing,” Sue recalled. “I remember watching her on black and white television as she rolled out the organization. It was so fascinating to see her create this new opportunity for people who’d never had it before.”

Sue, who joined Corning in 1999, started running 15 years ago. It was a great way to stay fit as she entered her 40s.

She ran 5k races and became an advocate for fitness and philanthropy at the Life Sciences office. She joined colleagues in events like the 2010 Race for the Cure in Boston. She edged up her stamina and started running 10ks and even a few half-marathons over recent years.

“But I never, ever dreamed of running a marathon.” She said.

That all changed last fall. Because she had participated in several “Jolly Jaunt” runs to benefit Special Olympics, she was on the organization’s email list – and got a message inviting her to apply for one of eight slots the organization would have in the 2016 Boston Marathon.

Significantly, she was in her family’s small vacation home at the time – a place they’d affectionately names “Eunice” after the Special Olympics founder.

By pledging to raise a significant donation, charity-sponsored runners could forgo the usual speed qualifications required of most Boston Marathon runners.

Sue’s first instinct was to delete the email. But she glanced up and saw a photo of Eunice Kennedy Shriver smiling down on her. Almost before she knew it, she was filling out the online application form.

I grew up watching the marathon, always being on the sidelines but never in the game,” she said. “But I had a choice. Many folks with intellectual disabilities wouldn’t have a choice. Without something like Special Olympics, they’d always be on the sidelines. So I thought, let’s raise some money to get them in the game.”

A phone interview came next – and just before Thanksgiving, Sue received word that she’d been accepted. She began a rigorous training schedule almost immediately. A friend provided coaching and tips, and Sue used Runkeeper smartphone app to schedule her workouts and track progress.

All through the cold New England winter, Sue devoted herself to training. Treadmill runs, outdoor track runs, and grueling uphill runs were all a part of her weekday regimen. Saturdays were reserved for long training runs.

It hasn’t all gone smoothly. She pulled a hamstring in December. It healed, but still bothers her. She ran a half-marathon in March and tweaked her back. Still she is facing the 26.2-mile race this month with excitement – thanks in large measure to the enthusiastic support of friends, family, and co-workers in Life Sciences.

“The outpouring of donations and good wishes has been so humbling,” she said. “It just amazes me. Everyone has been so generous – and the more we raise, the more we can help people participate in Special Olympics. That’s the thing I’m proud of most.”

The Massachusetts chapter of Special Olympics has nearly 12,000 athletes ranging in age from 2 to 104. The group offers participation in more than 24 sports. A wide variety of related services – like health screening and public education about intellectual disabilities – help create a well-rounded, year-round program.

“If there’s one word I could use about Special Olympics, it’s inclusion’ – giving opportunity to people who might not otherwise have it,” Sue said. “That’s what it’s all about.”


Donate to support Sue

Marathon Spotlight – Jen Reilly

By Karina Hornbaker & Lauren Gainor

jen reilly1

Jen in her Super Hero costume for the 17 mile run on February 27th

Jen Reilly’s dedication to Special Olympics Massachusetts goes beyond her commitment to run the 2016 Boston Marathon; Jen is a valued volunteer, a special education teacher for Bourne Middle School, a co-creator of a local Special Olympics program and the sister of an athlete.

Since the start of her involvement 16 years ago when her adopted brother Gregory joined Special Olympics Massachusetts as an athlete, one of Jen’s biggest accomplishment’s was creating the Cape Cod Champs volleyball and flag football program in collaboration with her sister Shannon. Over the years, the Cape Cod program has grown and so has Jen’s investment in Special Olympics Massachusetts. Jen thanks the organization for everything they have been able to give her brother remarking: “We don’t know where he’d be without Special Olympics.” Jen goes on to say that it’s amazing to see how happy he is when he’s participating in Special Olympics; Greg makes a point to write his practices and final games in his planner every week.

After fundraising and running the Boston Jolly Jaunt 5k for Special Olympics each December with her sister, Jen decided to take on the 2015 Boston Marathon as a Special Olympics Massachusetts team member. Jen always thought of how much of an accomplishment it would be to run a marathon, so she decided to “go for it.” During the race, Jen thought about all she accomplished and “couldn’t help but smile when running the Boston Marathon.” After raising over $8,400 for the organization in 2015, Jen decided to come back for another year to take on Boston’s 26.2 miles a second time.

jen reilly2By nature Jen “loves challenges” and believes in always having a goal in mind. Jen says that having the focus of finishing the 2016 Boston Marathon helps keep her motivated during training, especially when she has to wake up early to train in all kinds of weather. When thinking about fundraising, Jen believes any challenges she faces are worth it because her Marathon fundraising will provide opportunities for the athletes to participate year round in Special Olympics Massachusetts which will allow them to participate in 24 different types sports, create friendships, and have something to look forward to. Its people like her brother Greg, her sister Shannon and all the other kids involved in the Special Olympics programs that mentally push Jen to the finish line. Jen says she is so excited to be a part of the Special Olympics Massachusetts Boston Marathon team again this year and has set her sights on going above and beyond her 2015 fundraising amount.

Look for Jen as she runs with Special Olympics Massachusetts for the 2016 Boston Marathon – Good luck, Jen!

Donate to Support Jen

Marathon Spotlight – Wendy Wyman

By: Lauren Gainor & Karina Hornbaker

Wendy Wyman Profile Pic 2As a 50th birthday challenge, North Carolina’s Wendy Wyman is taking on the 2016 Boston Marathon with the Special Olympics Massachusetts team. When thinking about what charity to run with in this year’s race, Wendy took into consideration her time spent volunteering with Special Olympics Connecticut and her family’s involvement with the Special Olympics Massachusetts’ Falmouth Road Race charity team through Ocean Spray. Although she lives further South, Wendy says, “Massachusetts is home to my family…I went to college in Massachusetts and have family and MANY friends that live there. Running for Special Olympics in MA means a lot to me, as I feel I’m able to contribute in some way to the local families where the Boston Marathon takes place.”

Being from North Carolina, Wendy doesn’t know what to expect from the Boston Marathon course but says, “I think the unknown is what will keep me going.” Since the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings, Wendy anticipates her marathon finish line experience to more sentimental than any of her prior 7 marathons.

We can’t wait to see you gliding across that finish line soon, Wendy! Thank you for everything you have done for us here at Special Olympics Massachusetts!

Donate to Support Wendy

Marathon Spotlight: Doug Keith

By: Lauren Gainor & Karina Hornbaker

Doug Keith_2015 boston Marathon Finish Photo“Commitment, dedication, perseverance, opportunity, hope, laughter, tears of joy”; this is what Special Olympics Massachusetts means to Doug Keith.

In the 18 years he’s been involved with Special Olympics Massachusetts, Doug has been an enthusiastic fundraiser, a committed coach, an active Board Chair, and a fearless member of the organization’s 2015 and 2016 Boston Marathon teams. More important than all of these accomplishments, Doug is a proud parent of a Special Olympics Massachusetts athlete.

In May of 1998, Doug and his wife Kathy learned that their son James, also known as Jimmy, had Down syndrome. Determined to help Jimmy achieve his personal best, Doug looked into Special Olympics. Being impressed by what he saw, Doug signed up for a golf event which started his family’s lifelong commitment to the organization. While at that time they didn’t know what was in store for their family, Doug says, “We had no idea how lucky we would be to have Jimmy in our [lives], to watch him grow. We also had no idea how our lives would be forever changed by our involvement in Special Olympics of Massachusetts.”

Since his introduction to the Special Olympics family, Doug says there have been countless impactful moments which further solidified his commitment to the organization. One he specifically recalls was while coaching basketball and an athlete made her first basket after a season of practicing. Doug said he witnessed “the tears on the parents’ faces as they watch with pride and amazement.” It was touching memories such as this that first inspired Doug in 2015 to sign up for the Special Olympics Massachusetts Boston Marathon team to run a distance five times further than he had in the past.

When asked why he wanted to come back to run another 26.2 and fundraise for Special Olympics Massachusetts, Doug said, “I am inspired by the Special Olympics athletes who push themselves every day and even more so when they compete –on the field, the court, in the pool or on the slopes – they overcome so many physical, emotional and mental challenges, and I decided I would push myself to the limit in their honor.”

With an outstanding $57,000 raised by Doug in 2015, Doug is setting his sights on an impressive $75,000 goal for his 2016 Boston Marathon fundraising. Doug says the best part of fundraising is the well-wishes he gets and people thanking him for fundraising. “It should be the other way around,” says Doug, but he is thrilled people are invested in a cause so important to his family. Doug’s individual fundraising for this year’s marathon will allow over 192 athletes to compete year-round in Special Olympics Massachusetts.

With race day approaching, Doug is looking forward to seeing his nephew on the sidelines by heartbreak hill and his wife, kids and older brother David near Newton Wellesley. Doug said he’s looking forward to hearing the “thousands of people who barely know who you are, cheering you on.” When Doug reaches the finish line he says he will be “excited, tired, and a little teary eyed.” Doug believes all the miles will be well worth it after he’s crossed the finish line and thinks about what he has given back to Special Olympics Massachusetts for everything they continue to do for the athletes.

Doug, thank you for your dedication and commitment to Special Olympics Massachusetts. We are a better organization because of your contributions over the last 18 years. We’ll all be cheering for you on race day! To be part of Doug’s fundraising journey, click here to help him reach his $75,000 goal!


Donate to support Doug

Marathon Spotlight: Patrice Glancy

By: Lauren Gainor & Karina Hornbaker

Patrice-Glancy_application photo
What does Special Olympics mean to you? What drives you to go running for this year’s Boston Marathon®? These are only just a few questions asked when interviewing Patrice Glancy, a current runner for Special Olympics Massachusetts.

Patrice’s passion for Special Olympics Massachusetts runs deeper than just her commitment to run 26.2 miles on April 18th; she’s been a special needs teacher in the Boston Public School system for over 14 years and a Special Olympics Massachusetts coach for 10. When asked about her career as a special education teacher, Patrice said, “I have always loved working with children/people with special needs. I feel that they are all so unique and special in their own way and all have so much to offer.” Once Patrice heard about Special Olympics and all the work it does to help people with intellectual and developmental disabilities develop personal growth and cultivate friendships through sports, she was hooked. Being part of Special Olympics Massachusetts was a perfect way to build on her teaching passion; so much so that she decided to start the Jackson Mann track and field team in 2007. Since that time, Patrice has touched the lives of over 50 Special Olympics Massachusetts athletes in her 9 years of coaching. “Working with children with disabilities is my true passion and calling in life. Enriching the lives of people with special needs is something that fulfills me as a person. I have seen the amazing opportunities Special Olympics [has] provided to people not only in Massachusetts, but all over the world. I think it is one of the most amazing organizations that has ever been founded.”

Patrice’s 2016 marathon experience isn’t the first time she’s been affiliated with Special Olympics Massachusetts for the Boston Marathon; in fact, Patrice was one of the two original runners who participated in the first official Special Olympics Massachusetts team as part of the John Hancock charity program back in 2009. In that year, Patrice raised over $13,000 for the organization. When asked about her fundraising for this year, Patrice says, “It would be an honor to raise money for my athletes (current/former students) as well as the many others that participate in Special Olympics.” Patrice says that she would not run for any other charity other than for Special Olympics Massachusetts because she believes in the core of what they are about and what they do for people with special needs. She believes that Special Olympics Massachusetts enhances the lives of it participants and she loves to be part of that experience through her coaching and through her professional career.

When asked about training for the marathon Patrice joked that the key was to, “Run a lot!” Ultimately, Patrice believes that you truly need to prepare yourself mentally and physically by following your training schedule and taking care of yourself. When thinking about race day, Patrice is looking forward to turning left on Hereford Street and turning right onto Boylston as she nears the famous Boston Marathon finish line. Patrice hopes to see her friends, family, and students at the run; in fact, her special needs athletes that were part of her first track team back in 2007 will be cheering her on from the sideline on race day. Having her athletes supporting her on race day will be the thing to drive her toward the finish line.

Patrice, Special Olympics Massachusetts appreciates everything you do for those with intellectual and developmental disabilities in your life. The passion and love you hold for this organization is valued and always cherished. Good luck to Patrice!

Donate to support Patrice

Marathon Spotlight: Dawn Snow

By: Lauren Gainor & Karina Hornbaker

D.SnowHave you ever wondered what it would feel like to be a marathon runner in the Boston Marathon or what is going through a marathon runners mind as they get closer to that finish line? You ask yourself, why did they do this? How did they do this? What’s their motivation? Well, let us take you into the mind of 49 year old Dawn Snow who will be running the 2016 Boston Marathon® on April 18th, in hopes to fundraise her $7,500 goal for Special Olympics Massachusetts.
Dawn, from Marshfield, MA, has had a passion for the medical community for quite some time. Not only has Dawn made it a professional focus as a Regulatory Assistant at Kirwan Surgical Products, but she has also made it a personal one. Over the last 11 years, Dawn has co-captained medical tent 23 in the Boston Marathon and volunteered her time as a medical volunteer for dozens of Special Olympics Massachusetts events to ensure the safety of the athletes. Dawn’s volunteer pursuits have come full circle as she embarks on her Boston Marathon journey. Dawn says she was driven to sign up for this year’s Boston Marathon when she saw Greg Schwartz, a 2015 Special Olympics Massachusetts Boston Marathon team member and a long time Special Olympics Massachusetts athlete, run by her medical tent in last year’s race. Seeing Greg run by her reminded her of why Special Olympics Massachusetts was such a great organization and it gave her the inspiration she needed to officially apply to the team.

When asked how her experience has been as a medical volunteer for Special Olympics Massachusetts, Dawn had nothing but positive things to say. She remembers one particular event with Special Olympics Massachusetts where she received a t-shirt to represent the organization and later, when the event was over, received a thank you note from the volunteer organizer which made her feel like her time was truly appreciated and valued. Dawn has only been involved with Special Olympics for 3 years, yet feels like Special Olympics Massachusetts’ appreciation is something she has never experienced before. Dawn would not have been exposed to Special Olympics Massachusetts if not for Susan Borden and for Jennifer Dowdy, the Special Olympics Massachusetts Volunteer Engagement Manager. Dawn said she would get emails from Jennifer about ways volunteers could get more involved, and she always appreciated how sincere Jennifer was in her email invitations. Special Olympics means a lot to Dawn, from their gratitude shown to her, to the individual people that work for them, and most importantly the happiness and friendship she sees on the athletes’ faces.

In addition to her experience with Special Olympics Massachusetts, Dawn’s volunteering as co-captain to medical tent 23 in the Boston Marathon has contributed to her motivation for this year’s race. During the Marathon Bombing, she had to “stop runners because there was not a finish line for them to cross anymore”, help people evacuate, and get into medical trucks. While that year’s marathon was an “indescribable experience” and knows it’s a day she will never forget, Dawn signed up for her medical tent position the following year as to not have her view of the Boston Marathon tarnished. She enjoys watching the happy faces of the athletes when she goes to events and just the overall good vibes that is always visible when she goes to an event.

After signing up to run with Special Olympics Massachusetts, Dawn feels like this year’s marathon experience will be significantly different; instead of caring for runners and cheering them on from the sidelines, Dawn is going to be one of the thousands pursuing the dream of crossing the famous Boston Marathon finish line. When asked how she prepared herself for the marathon, mentally and physically, Dawn chuckled. She did not think there was much she could train herself mentally for, but there was a lot to say when it came to being physically prepared. “It is like a second job, when you’re training for the marathon everyday…for hours…”cross fitting or going to the gym, you are constantly doing something…full steam ahead!” Dawn is, “the cupcake queen,” she loves them, but sadly, just like all runners training for a marathon, dieting is something that has to be taken serious if you want to have a great performance. She says, “You feel horrible when running if you eat bad food. It makes you feel sluggish, weak, and overall bad when running.”

As she approaches her 50th birthday, just one week before the 2016 Boston Marathon, Dawn admits that this will be her last full marathon. Running Boston is something she always wanted to do, and she is happy to say this is something she can cross off in her bucket list. Dawn still remembers getting the email confirming her acceptance as a runner for Special Olympics Massachusetts, and she couldn’t believe she was going to be given such a great opportunity. As she teared up with happiness, she said, “These are happy tears”.

Dawn says she is looking forward to running by Wellesley College, seeing her friends and family cheer her on, seeing the Citgo sign as she near the end of the race, and seeing her medical tent 23 on Coolidge Corner. Snow anticipates her feelings when she reaches that finish line will be exhaustion and euphoria. She will think about the fact that she just ran 26.2 miles and will be expecting high fives on her crossover on the finish line. She goes on further to say that this is an experience she will never forget and was happy to do!

Thank you Dawn for everything you do and continue to do for Special Olympics Massachusetts!


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