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At Nearly $39 Million, 2019 Boston Marathon Fundraising Broke Records

A Boston Marathon medal waits for a finisher. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
A Boston Marathon medal waits for a finisher. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

Charity runners raised a record amount of money around this year's Boston Marathon, according to officials who organize the charity programs for the race each year.

More than 4,000 men and women who gained entry into the 2019 race in exchange for a pledge to collect donations for nonprofits raised $38.7 million for those causes. That figure exceeds the previous record $38.4 million raised around the 2014 Boston Marathon, the year after the bombings at the finish line. It's also $2 million more than the amount raised around the 2018 marathon.

"It's so hard to qualify for Boston now, so really one of the only other ways to participate in the race would be to run for charity," says Ashley Wheeler, who manages the marathon nonprofit program for John Hancock, the main sponsor of the race. "The more difficult it is to gain access to something, the more people want to do it and it definitely provides a higher result for fundraising."

John Hancock and the Boston Athletic Association (BAA) operate the major charity programs for the Boston Marathon. They require participants to raise a minimum of $5,000. But Wheeler says the average amount each charity runner is raising each year is so much more than that minimum that the charities are looking for runners to sign on to raise at least $10,000. "The average in this past year's program surpassed $13,000," she says.

And some runners go way beyond that. On the Friday night before the marathon each year, John Hancock honors its top 20 fundraisers before the Red Sox game at Fenway Park. Wheeler says the top fundraiser for the organization in 2019 collected more than $84,000 for one of the nonprofits in the program.

The marathon bombings have led to increased donations for the charities that are part of the program. In 2013, the year of the attacks, the charity program raised $20.8 million overall. It's nearly double that six years later.

"After 2013, of course there was such a wonderful sense of camaraderie and all of Boston coming together and it just catapulted this desire for people to participate," Wheeler says. "For anybody who's ever been down to the finish line, they leave thinking, 'I want to do that one day.'"

The $38.7 million raised around the marathon this year benefited 297 nonprofit organizations. The Boston Marathon charities website has a rundown of all of those organizations and showcases the stories of some of the runners who raised money for them this year.

“This year’s record-setting fundraising totals are just the most recent example of how our athletes continue to raise the bar at the Boston Marathon,” BAA CEO Tom Grilk said in a statement. “We are immensely proud to be associated with the athletes and organizations participating in our charity programs. Each dollar raised through these athletes will have a profound impact on our communities. And we’re very thankful to our friends at John Hancock, with whom we proudly reflect on another great year of fundraising.”

Alex Ashlock Twitter Producer, Here & Now
Alex Ashlock has been a producer for Here & Now since 2005. He started his WBUR career as senior producer of Morning Edition in 1998.

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