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Charity spotlight

2014 Chicago Marathon - Finish Line Race Day-904

The Bank of America Chicago Marathon annually attracts more than 10,000 charity runners. This inspiring group of runners participate on behalf of the 194 charitable organizations that are building teams for this year’s Bank of America Chicago Marathon. The Chicago Marathon is proud to partner with these charitable organizations, and to welcome the runners who participate as part of their dedicated fund-raising teams.

Each month, the Charity spotlight will feature one of these organizations and the local, national and international causes they represent.


October: Alzheimer’s Association
September: Chicago Run
August: American Red Cross
July: Advocate Health Care
June: Ronald McDonald House Charities

May: Chicago Parks Foundation


Alzheimer’s Association

Ninety-nine percent, if not 100%, of the ALZ Stars team (the Alzheimer’s Association charity marathon team) has a personal connection to Alzheimer’s. Ellie Simpson, the Alzheimer’s Association Manager of Athletic Events, says this “unites everyone in a big way! We have a few alumni who have been on the team for 10 years and one who has been with us for 11 years.”

To date, over 800 participants have raised $1,115,619 for the Alzheimer’s Association. One hundred and ninety participants on this year’s ALZ Stars team raised more than $358,000, and around 20% of the team included alumni runners.

Founded in 1970 with a mission to eradicate Alzheimer’s disease, the Alzheimer’s Association pours its energy, time and resources into making advancements in research, enhancing care and support for all impacted by the disease and reducing the risk of dementia through the promotion of brain health. Its 24/7 Helpline offers support and information to more than 250,000 callers in 170 languages annually. Moreover, it offers 4,500 support groups across the U.S. and 20,000 education programs. Since 1982, the Alzheimer’s Association has awarded more than $315 million to over 2,200 scientists.

Simpson says that first time ALZ Stars runner, Jane Godfrey, underscores the mission and goal of the ALZ Stars Bank of America Chicago Marathon charity running team. Godfrey’s mother has Alzheimer’s and Godfrey is her primary caretaker. In addition to caring for her mom, she is a wife and a working professional. “She runs to take the time for herself and to reflect on all of the amazing things in her life, not on what Alzheimer’s has taken from her,” remarks Simpson. “She’s truly an inspiration.”

To learn more about the Alzheimer’s Association, click here.

Chicago Run

Chicago Run was started in 2007 as a non-profit with the mission to join the fight against childhood obesity by promoting health and wellness among Chicago’s children through “innovative, engaging and sustainable youth running programs.” Chicago Run launched its pilot program in 2008 with 12 chicago public schools and 2,000 kids. Its overall growth has been exponential: today it has programs across the city in 32 of Chicago’s 77 neighborhoods, serving 44 schools, and more than 13,000 kids from pre-k – 8th grade. To date, 89% of the kids who participate in Chicago Run’s youth programs qualify for the Federal Free/Reduced Lunch Program.

“The virtue of the program is to instill running at a young age,” says Exceutive Director Alicia Gonzalez. “The kids learn about the marathon and they get into the spirit of the race. It’s also an opportunity for parents and teachers to learn about what the kids are doing, and some of them have now run the marathon.” Gonzalez notes that one parent was so inspired by his son’s efforts that he is running his seventh marathon this year.

Over the last two and a half years, Chicago Run has expanded its program to include a digital learning component by having students track their mileage and goals on Students can even earn incentives for reaching specific milestones.

Chicago Run has been involved with the Bank of America Chicago Marathon since 2008. Its involvement started with working at Aid Station 15 in Pilsen before it became part of the official Charity Program in 2010. In its first year, Chicago Run raised $35,000. Last year, it raised $105,000 with a team of 105 runners, and this year, Gonzales hopes to raise $112,000. The money will be used to support 10 schools and 3,000 kids.

“Chicago Run is really about a way to give back – it’s about community service, cross community collaboration, neighborhood pride and fostering a deeper sense of the running community throughout the city.”

To learn more about Chicago Run, click here.

American Red Cross

Ashley Sanislo Casey will toe the line on October 12 for the second time as a member of Team Red Cross, something she hopes to turn into an annual tradition.

Casey chose to run for the American Red Cross because of its positive impact locally and globally, and because she feels better “knowing that the Red Cross is there as some of the first people on the scene helping people get water, food, shelter and reconnected with loved ones.”

The American Red Cross was founded in 1882 to prevent and alleviate human suffering in the face of emergencies by mobilizing the power of volunteers and the generosity of donors. Today, the American Red Cross is part of the world’s largest humanitarian network with 13 million volunteers in 187 countries. Each year, the Red Cross aids an average of more than 100 million people across the globe.

On the local level, four thousand volunteers help the American Red Cross of Greater Chicago serve more than 9.6 million people in northeastern Illinois and northwest Indiana. The Red Cross responds to 1,200 disasters every year, and it teaches more than a quarter million people in the Chicagoland area health, safety and disaster preparedness skills.

Team Red Cross partnered with the Bank of America Chicago Marathon in 2007. To date, more than 600 runners worldwide have raised more than $800,000 for the American Red Cross. Team Red Cross’ 145 charity runners hope to collectively raise $150,000 this fall.

The money raised through the Bank of America Chicago Marathon helps fund the Red Cross’ Patient Connection service, a service the American Red Cross provides on race day to help families reconnect with their runners who have been injured or hospitalized.

The Chicago Marathon was the first race to utilize the Patient Connection service on race day.

Click here to learn more about Team Red Cross’ charity marathon program.

Advocate Health Care

Allison Kerrigan will line up on October 12 with two missions: to finish the Bank of America Chicago Marathon as a member of Advocate Health Care’s charity team and to raise awareness surrounding traumatic brain injuries. Kerrigan joins Advocate’s team nine years after she suffered from extensive injuries following a porch collapse, and she credits the physicians and nurses at one of Advocate’s hospitals, Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center, with saving her life.

Kerrigan’s experience highlights the work that Advocate Health Care does for its patients. Advocate serves the needs of individuals, families and communities with more than 250 sites of care, including 12 hospitals that encompass 11 acute care hospitals and Illinois’ largest integrated children’s network. As a not-for-profit health system affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the United Church of Christ, Advocate contributed $661 million in charitable care and services to communities across Chicagoland and Central Illinois in 2013.

Advocate Health Care joined the Bank of America Chicago Marathon Charity Program in 2011. Since then, Advocate runners have raised nearly $450,000 for a variety of charitable programs. One unique feature of Advocate’s charity program is that participants select the Advocate hospital or program that they want their fundraising efforts to benefit. Specific examples include child life programs, equipment funds and the Adult Down Syndrome Center.

Advocate Health Care’s team hopes to raise $100,000 this year. Advocate has used its marathon fundraising program to support a variety of programs throughout its hospital system, including Healthy Steps, a program at Advocate Children’s Hospital that ensures that children with developmental or behavioral disabilities get the early diagnoses and services they need in order to lead happy, productive and engaged lives.

Click here to learn more about Advocate’s Inspired to Run charity marathon program.

Ronald McDonald House Charities

Six hundred and fifty runners lined up at last year’s Bank of America Chicago Marathon wearing red and white technical tees and proudly supporting Team RMHC. Fueled by Ronald McDonald House Charities’ (RMHC®) core mission to help children fighting disease, illness and injury, the team collectively raised more than $870,000.

Ronald McDonald House Charities launched Team RMHC at the 2006 Bank of America Chicago Marathon with 32 runners, raising $39,000. Since then, the team has raised more than $2.8 million.

The funds raised through the 2013 Chicago Marathon enabled RMHC to serve more than 12,000 children and their families through programs like the Ronald McDonald House. As children endure their own marathons, a Ronald McDonald House functions as a “home away from home” for families so they can stay close to their hospitalized child at little or no cost.

Founded in 1974, the mission of Ronald McDonald House Charities® is to create, find and support programs that directly improve the health and wellbeing of children. Through its global network of chapters in 58 countries and regions, Ronald McDonald House Charities provides stability and resources to families so they can get and keep their children healthy and happy.

All of the programs supported and operated by RMHC provide a bridge to quality health care and give children and their families the time they need together to heal faster and cope better.

Because of the success of Team RMHC, the organization has been able to use the Bank of America Chicago Marathon as a springboard for other team fundraising efforts. Through its Group Give platform, RMHC has been able to garner increased donations from corporate partners and individual contributors.

In 2014, Team RMHC has a fundraising goal of $1,000,000. To learn how you can help them reach their goal and for more information on how to join Team RMHC visit

Chicago Parks Foundation

While many local runners are familiar with Chicago’s hallmark 18-mile Lakefront Trail, they might not be aware of the fact that Chicago boasts 580 parks, 24 beaches, 11 museums, 9 golf courses and 10 harbors.

Founded in 2012, the Chicago Parks Foundation (CPF) is a community-supported nonprofit organization seeking to transform places and people through the conservation and improvement of Chicago’s neighborhood parks, field houses and lakefront. As part of its mission, the CPF is committed to making parks accessible and safe for all communities, regardless of socioeconomic level, and for instilling a sense of stewardship in this and future generations.

“Whether it is for sport and recreation, youth programming, arts and culture or landscape and preservation,” says Maggie Daly, Team Coordinator for Team ChiParks, “it is the CPF’s goal to support and serve the Chicago parks and the communities that use them.”

In its inaugural year as part of the official Bank of America Chicago Marathon Charity Program, the CPF has set a fundraising goal of $200,000. CPF would like to use the money it fundraises to grow its staff, to enhance, create or improve the programs and facilities in all Chicago’s parks and to actively support Chicago’s youth.

“One area of particular interest is scholarships for Chicago’s youth,” emphasizes Daly. “The CPF wants to ensure that all children who want to participate in summer camp or after school programs can, regardless of their ability to pay.”

Highlighting its support for and dedication to Chicago’s youth and parks, the CPF raised $465,000 in 2013 for Windy City Hoops, a free basketball league for at-risk teens offered year-round at 11 parks across the city.

To learn more about the Chicago Parks Foundation, or to register to run as part of their Team ChiParks, click here.

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