By Sandy Levitz Lunner
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
It all started with her life list. One of her goals was to run a marathon.
"Once I ran my first marathon, I thought, ‘I can do this again … I can improve my time … I can qualify for the Boston Marathon.’"
So Alexandria resident Brooke Sydnor Curran continued running — to improve time, which she did. And to qualify for the Boston Marathon, which she did.
She started to wonder how she could turn her passion for running into something for the greater good.
"It took time — a couple of years of planning," Curran explained.
"First trying to be different — to set a goal that was kind of cool, that would catch people’s attention."
She decided to run a marathon on every continent plus all the major marathons. But apparently that wasn’t challenging enough for Curran.
When someone suggested that she include running a marathon in each state, she was quick to oblige and has committed to running a marathon a month to reach that goal.
Next she had to figure out how to turn this challenge into a fund-raising opportunity.
"I always knew I wanted to help Alexandria charities," Curran said. "I started looking into creating a 501(c)3, but I’m not a paperwork person, so I ruled that out."
She thought it might make sense to be under someone else’s non-profit umbrella. "I wanted to give my donors confidence that their dollars are going to something real, something good."
A FRIEND who is a member of the Alexandria Community Trust (ACT) suggested that Curran contact them to see if she could work something out.
"It was a perfect match," Curran said. "We established a partnership last May. They hold the donations I’ve collected and at the end of the year, I decide which Alexandria organizations will get the funds."
She’s leaning towards the groups that help women and children because, she explains, as a woman and mother, it’s true to her heart.
"It’s who I am," she said.
Curran lives in the Rosemont neighborhood of Alexandria with her husband Christopher and three daughters Clare, Kate and Caroline, ages 16, 15 and 12, respectively.
She’s named her fund-raising program "RunningBrooke." Brandi Yee, program director at ACT, says Curran’s model is exactly what her organization is trying to do — energize more people to give and be philanthropic.
"Brooke has combined her passion for running with her compassion for the community," Yee said.
"She’s raised awareness of what’s going on with Alexandrians in need and galvanized a group of new donors.
"It’s encouraging for us to see someone in the community take the lead in being philanthropic in such a creative, unique way."
ON NOV. 21, while Christopher was home cheering on their daughters in two lacrosse games and one soccer tournament, Curran was in Boonsboro, Md. for The 47th Annual John F. Kennedy 50-mile — "America’s Ultra Marathon." Her personal time was two minutes under the 10-hour "good time" benchmark, and her team placed second — just three minutes behind the winners.
"If I’d realized how close we were, I wouldn’t have stopped to take so many pictures," she laughed. "But it was so beautiful."
Just last weekend, Curran traveled to Memphis for the Run for St. Jude’s Hospital, her final marathon for 2009.
"All the money I’m raising goes directly to the city," Curran said. "I personally pay for my travel and entry fees to all the marathons."
So far this year, she’s raised $18,000 for ACT, just shy of the $20,000 goal she set for herself. Naturally, the folks at ACT are rooting for her to reach that goal.
"I’m a runner, so I have a special affinity for what Brooke is doing," said John Porter, executive director of ACT. "It’s a very creative way to help. She’s fulfilling her personal goals and her philanthropic goals."
Curran would love to see greater support from the business community and other Alexandrians who want to help locally. Many employers offer matching grants so a donor could double the worth of his or her contribution. Curran says she’s even open to some sort of sponsorship from local businesses.
"For example," she said, "I occasionally give small receptions to garner support from friends and colleagues, and I would welcome a donation from a local caterer." Or, as she says on her blog, "I’ll wear it, eat it, drink it or use it …"
Curran says that when someone makes a donation, it’s usually by check, made out to The Alexandria Community Trust. She asks people to write "RunningBrooke" in the memo line so ACT knows how to credit the donation. And, if someone wants to support a specific Alexandria program, they can just add that to the memo line. Plus, donations are 100 percent tax deductible.
CURRAN ALREADY knows her schedule for next year. In January she’ll be at Disney World for the Goofy Challenge. She plans to register for and run a half marathon on Saturday and a full marathon on Sunday for which she’ll earn three medals.
"I’m a little crazy for my medals," she said.
In February Curran runs in Sedona, Ariz. March is the Nevada Red Rock Canyon marathon. And in April, she’s off to London to complete her goal of running in five major-category marathons.
"People are getting excited, and it’s getting to be fun," Curran said. "Yes, some people kind of glaze over and can’t get their hands around what I’m doing, but with others it’s ‘Oh my God, that’s great!’"
Curran attended the Maury School Fall Festival this year to promote "runningbrooke."
"A small group of teen boys said, ‘That’s sick!’ which I think means ‘that’s great,’" she said. "They kept coming back and couldn’t believe that I had run a marathon in Easter Island or that I’m going to Antarctica in July. It was fun to see them be excited for what I’m doing."
With the holiday season in full swing, people are starting to remember the true meaning of Christmas, and ACT’s Yee and Porter hope that the gift Curran is giving to the community will inspire others to join in.
"Everyone is well aware that with the economy where it is, more and more people are in need," Porter said. "It’s important that people remember and do what they can to help others during this giving time of year.
"We know Alexandria is a giving community and will step up during our growing need to help those less fortunate."
For those who want to help, write "RunningBrooke" in the memo line on the check. If Curran can reach her goal of $20,000 this year, imagine what she’ll set out to do for Alexandria in 2010.