Project Hope helps families believe in their own possibilities. Sister Margaret Leonard started Project Hope to break the barriers of poverty and transform the mental, spiritual and often physical barriers. Project Hope’s staff and programs help families care for themselves by assisting with education, quality day-care, and business and job skills training. The Gifford family has had the privilege of volunteering for Project Hope for four years at various events, and they have seen first-hand successes of the organization. Inspired by the tragic events that occurred during last year’s marathon, Matthew Gifford will join his father Bob as part of the Project Hope 2014 Boston Marathon team, and fulfill a promise to take back his city, his race, and to support all the charity runners that participate. In this post, seasoned runner Bob talks about how Matthew is working toward this promise, against all odds.
Two days after the bombings last April, my 19-year old son Matthew called me at work and asked if I would help him train for the 2014 Boston Marathon. If there was one word to describe his attitude, it was indignant. This was his city that was attacked. His decision was made – he wanted to join his “Pop” on the Project Hope marathon team.
Matthew is a big presence, both in height, and in personality. Standing at 6 foot 6, his days are filled with the many activities expected of a busy Suffolk University commuter student. He’s up at 6 in the morning and doesn’t get home until 8 at night. He works hard and he plays hard, keeping old friends close and making new ones with ease. Although an athlete, running has never been his “thing.” High school football and rugby – short distance sprints and team sports – are his “things.” While Matthew sounded committed, I knew in my head getting a popular college teenager up for long distance team runs in the ice cold and snow on Saturday mornings would be a long shot. But, he was up to the challenge.
We started the training with easy 2 mile runs on grass that were upped to 3, then 5 milers. The summer heat arrived in New England and running became much harder than Matthew expected. We all have fails, starts and restarts. This 19-year-old teenager who thinks he’s athletic and invincible began to realize he was going to need to do this on his own, at his own pace. Running is hard, especially for a novice. While our training programs gradually separated, our goals remained shared.
The first goal was a 5K, then a 10K at Patriot Place in the heat on July 3rd. Then, we set our eyes on Boston’s Half Marathon, a 13.1 miler up and down the Jamaica Plain hills and through Franklin Park. Through it all, Matthew stubbornly reached every goal I set for him, refusing to quit even when injuries and his school life interfered.
To me, Matthew Gifford is a winner. Not because he’s going to be first in his age category, but because he set a goal for himself: to join a charity team and show the world this is our city, our race, and our charity runners – and no one better dare touch them. Just like his Pop, he gets chills when the national anthem is played. He knows this run is symbolic in many ways. Matthew is a former football player from Brookline High School who made the commitment to transform himself into a Boston Marathoner. I am confident that at the end of the day on April 21, he will accomplish his goal – and no one can ever take that away from him.
To support Team Gifford and Project Hope, visit their fundraising page at: http://www.crowdrise.com/ProjectHope2014BostonMarathon/fundraiser/teamgifford.
To learn more or share your story, visit jhextramile.com.