Jenny (Marshall) Dziura, the daughter of Chris and Susie Marshall of Delta, flew into New York to run in the New York City marathon Nov. 4, but wound up with a far more rewarding experience helping victims of Hurricane Sandy.
Dziura is executive director of the Chris Klug Foundation (chrisklugfoundation.org), a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting life-saving organ and tissue donation and improving the lives of those touched by donation.
She and four other runners, including a liver transplant recipient of 13 years, formed a team which was selected as a charity partner. That meant each team member was committed to raising a minimum of $3,000 to benefit the foundation's mission. In addition, they made arrangements to host a donor awareness booth at the race expo Nov. 1-3. The state of New York has the second lowest donor registration rate, so Dziura and her teammates felt they've found the perfect opportunity to raise awareness about organ and tissue donation as well as register new donors in New York and other states. Their goal was to register 250 people as organ donors during the three-day expo.
Jenny was looking forward to running her fourth marathon but could only watch and wait as her flight from her home in Portland, Ore., was cancelled. She originally planned to arrive in New York City Tuesday evening, but because of the storm her arrival was delayed until Thursday evening. Race organizers said the event was still a go, and although she'd missed one day of the expo, she still planned toman a booth at the race expo Friday and Saturday.
Then Friday at 5 p.m., friends from Colorado began texting and calling to let her know the New York City Marathon — which had been run continuously since 1970 — had been cancelled due to pressure from runners, politicians and the public.
"Although understandable, that news definitely came as a shock to all of us since they had declared it was a go two days earlier," Jenny said. "Myself along with everyone else I talked to definitely supported the decision, it was just bad timing."
But by the end of Sunday everyone had run a marathon of their own, seizing the opportunity to help out those impacted by the storm.
Jenny explains how the overwhelming show of support began:
"A group of six runners started forming a group on Friday night called 'New York Runners in Support of Staten Island.' The plan was for runners to wear backpacks filled with donations (toiletries, warm clothes, trash bags, batteries, food, etc.) and run into hard-hit sites to lend a hand. They started a Facebook page where they posted the recent details. By Sunday morning they had over 4,000 'likes.'
"The second I heard of the Staten Island opportunity I had to do it. There were 1,000 runners that showed up to the Staten Island Ferry Sunday morning wearing this year's orange race shirts and backpacks full of relief materials. One guy even pushed a baby jogger packed with supplies! We were split into groups depending on how far you wanted to run.
"Our group of seven ran to a site that was blocks from the water, a place called Midland Beach, five miles from the ferry. Water levels were easily four to five feet high at the worst time, so most garages and basements were flooded as well as ground level apartments. By the time word got out Staten Island needed help, donations and volunteers were easy to come by, even too much in some areas. We realized quickly they had food. It was cleaning supplies, warm clothes, lights, and extra hands that were needed.
"Our group came across a man and his son who had just seen their apartment for the first time that day. They were from Pennsylvania and the place was inherited from their late uncle. Because of the water damage the only option was to completely gut the first floor. We jumped right in and started loading out furniture, clearing out drawers, removing cabinets and then busting into the walls/drywall. We worked four hours straight and got done what would have taken he and his son a week to do. They were extremely grateful and we were so glad we were able to help someone directly.
"It was devastating to see all the damage. As we were leaving I saw a woman crying and I went over to her just to offer a hug. She hugged me for a solid minute then took our photo. She had been trapped upstairs in her apartment (she didn't evacuate) as her first level was flooding. She was worried about how to clean her place out as her husband slipped and fell the day before and broke a couple of ribs. We assured her more volunteers would be back to help.
"Around 4 p.m. we had to leave for our five-mile run back to the ferry. The others in my group were from New York and said they would be back to help next week.
"Sunday was still a 'marathon' — one I never imagined."
As for the rest of her team, two Aspen residents never made it to New York, because they heard of the cancellation before they got on the plane. A third flew home early Sunday. Michael Well, the liver recipient, chose to run the 26-mile marathon (his first) anyway, along with a couple thousand other runners in Central Park.
"I heard there was great energy out there and the stands that were intended for the finish line race were full of locals and tourists cheering," Jenny said. "Kids had set up make shift aid-stations with water, Gatorade, bananas and oranges. I was proud of Michael for doing the run, which he completed in six and a half hours.
Jenny is a 2001 graduate of Delta High School and a 2005 graduate of Colorado State University, where she majored in recreation and tourism. She lists three of her favorite things in the world as running, bikes and the courageous work of charities. So though the marathon didn't work out as she expected, she was gratified by the experience.blog comments powered by Disqus