Running home for veterans

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to cross home plate at Fenway Park? This Sunday, several Islanders will find out exactly what it feels like. Participating in the Run To Home Base 9K Race will be Katrina Delgadillo, Dustin Shaw, Todd Cleland, Margaret Mirko, and Jamie Cholaki. Joining them will be Jay Pothier of Sandwich, who is running in honor his late cousin Jena Pothier.

The Run To Home Base 9K Race benefits the U.S. military veterans through the Home Base Program, founded by the Red Sox Foundation and Massachusetts General Hospital. The program raises funds and awareness for veterans with combat stress disorder and/or traumatic brain injury, and their families. The program combines clinical care, innovative research, education, family support, and community outreach.

Local participants are running for a variety of reasons, but there is a common theme — honoring those who have served in the armed forces and suffered serious physical consequences as a result.

“I am participating because my father, my father-in-law, and brother-in-law are war veterans and I am running in their honor,” said Todd Cleland of Oak Bluffs. His father, Col. Thomas Cleland, is a Vietnam veteran, his father-in-law is a Vietnam veteran in the Australian Army, and his brother-in-law is an Army chaplain. “My father-in-law suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder years before he was actually diagnosed with it, so I know about it firsthand and it’s a serious affliction that needs to be addressed. So if I could just run a 9K, or 5.6 miles, to help raise money for this cause then it’s the least I can do and it’s also a healthy way to do it.”

“My dad was in the Navy, and one of my college roommates is over there serving right now,” said Jamie Cholaki, a hairstylist at The Hair Studio in Vineyard Haven. “I just went through a break-up and instead of being the girl crying on the couch, I thought ‘Wow, it would be a really fun experience to cross home plate.’ Everybody remembers their first time at Fenway Park, and I’ve never been, so crossing home plate will be something I’ll never forget. And what a great cause it’s for. I think that there’s a hero in each one of us, and I admire the people that serve our country and those that come back with an injury; that’s what inspired me to run.”

Each participating runner must pledge a minimum of $1,000, but runners are encouraged to raise more, if possible. “I’m just really amazed at the response by people. We’re in a tough economic time, but people will always have a generous heart,” Ms. Cholaki said. 


Runners of all levels and ages are participating, and they each have their own inspiration to get them through the course. “I believe this 9K through Boston will help me turn a corner personally,” Mr. Pothier said. “It’s a step in the right direction as far as getting healthy and being active, along with being able to give something back to the men and women who fight for this country.”

Margaret Mirko, co-owner of Martha’s Closet in Vineyard Haven, heard about the race while watching a Red Sox game on TV. “Just the fact that all the money is going to many veteran injuries made me want to participate,” she said. “I run a couple times of week to prepare. It’s a good cause, so everybody wants to help. I think we forget that there’s a war going on sometimes.” 


Other participants are habitual runners who keep an eye out for a new or unusual race to run. “I run a lot of races, and this one caught my interest,” said Katrina Delgadillo. “I usually run three to four days a week to prepare for them. I think sometimes it’s easy to forget we’re at war because for some of us, it doesn’t affect our everyday lives here at home. The race is a small thing to do to raise awareness and support those who are fighting for us. I’d like to thank everyone who has donated. We live in such a great community on the Island, and people are supportive and rally around great causes.”

This Sunday, May 16, Pyewackets in Vineyard Haven will hold an artisans co-op sale, featuring artists and vendors Anthony Guither, Catherine Bond, psychic Karen Coffey, Flotsam & Jetsam vintage and recycled clothes, Real Wild Foods, vintage fashion and accessories from the late Penelope Dickens, and Vineyard Lace by Lorraine Cottle. Each vendor will donate 10 percent of their profits to the race. The sale is from 12 noon to 4 pm.

For more information or to donate, visit runtohomebase.org.