Running nuns’ work with children inspires long-running St. Charles 5K
Jacqui Kennedy looked for a road race to fill in her racing calendar and came across an article in Runner’s World magazine about the Daughters of Mary, Mother of Healing Love. The nuns’ decision to incorporate running into their curriculum at St. Charles Children’s Home in Rochester impressed her and her running partner.
The article also mentioned an annual Labor Day road race held at Pease International Tradeport in Portsmouth to benefit St. Charles. Kennedy found her race for September.
“Seeing pictures of the nuns running with their habits added that special reminder of what they do and why they do it,” Kennedy says. “We try to find races that benefit a good cause and this race fits our criteria.”
The direction of St. Charles Children’s Home has changed over the years. It started as an orphanage, became a group home, and now educates children with behavioral, emotional and social needs so they can successfully integrate back into their school systems.
The 21st annual St. Charles 5K Road Race will be held on Monday, Sept. 4. Kennedy once again will be in a field of close to 1,000 runners and walkers expected to take part.
“This is our only major fundraiser,” says Jennifer Gilbert, office manager at St. Charles and the race coordinator. “It helps us to continue our programing.”
Gilbert says the race also helps spread the message that helping children victimized by trauma, abuse, grief and neglect remains St. Charles’ core mission, even though the programs have evolved.
“In this time of transition, that’s important,” Gilbert says. “We’re still serving the same type of clients.”
“Seeing pictures of the nuns running with their habits added that special reminder of what they do and why they do it. We try to find races that benefit a good cause and this race fits our criteria.” – Jacqui Kennedy, runner
The St. Charles 5K Road Race, which has a competitive aspect that includes cash prizes for top finishers, endures as a staple of the Seacoast running scene because the mission of the nuns continues to inspire everyone from runners to sponsors to volunteers, like Tommy Mattie.
Mattie will be back for his 10th year to feed the runners as they cross the finish line, leading a crew from Applebee’s that prepares hot dogs and hamburgers for runners and spectators.
Mattie originally got involved with the race while he was at the Applebee’s in Epping. He’s now the general manager of the Applebee’s in Concord, but still returns to cook for the race because he supports the St. Charles mission.
“I love St. Charles and what the sisters do,” Mattie explains. “They put 100 percent of themselves into that place with their care and love of the kids. It’s amazing to see.”
Mattie will be joined by six to eight volunteers, some of whom no longer work for Applebee’s, but return to show their support for St. Charles.
Gilbert says 50 volunteers are needed for the race to go smoothly and cites dedication as a reason for its success.
In addition, local businesses – such as Butternut Farms, Bagel Works, Dunkin’ Donuts, Panera and Planet Fitness – donate items and help stock the two water stations along the race course. They also help provide the cash prizes for top runners, raffle prizes, and food for all.
“This is such an important event for us,” Gilbert says. “We can only thank all the people who help make it possible.”