Spectators cheer on marathon runners at Mile 21. 

Nine years ago, Brigid Knowles ’23 signed up to coach the South Shore Stars, a Special Olympics team in Westchester, New York. It started as a community service project (at the encouragement of her Grandma Bea) but grew into a passion as well as a learning opportunity for Knowles, who’s now an economics major at Boston College.

“As a coach and volunteer, I got the opportunity to teach these individuals the skills necessary to compete and to never give up,” she recalled recently. “In turn, I’ve been taught lessons of patience, perseverance, and how to be a courageous winner and a gracious loser."

On April 18, Knowles will be running the 126th Boston Marathon in support of the Special Olympics, and dedicating her run to her Aunt Colleen, who has Down syndrome. She’ll be joined by at least 26 other members of the Boston College community, who are raising crucial funds for organizations like Dana-Farber and the Campus School. Many have personal connections to the charities they’re supporting, and all are excited for the chance to give back. Learn more about their motivation (and what’s playing on their headphones) below.  


Meaghan English ’09

Charity: Dana-Farber

“I’ve run for Dana-Farber three times, and what strikes me every time is how many lives this organization has affected, and how many people feel a deep, positive connection with it. I’m so proud to support their work to create a holistic, personalized, and rigorous treatment plan for everyone who walks through their doors.” 

Race-day motivation: “The BC chaos on the other side of Heartbreak Hill never disappoints :) and it’s all downhill from there!”

Go-to running song: Anything by Lady Gaga

Meaghan English


Olivia Colombo ’22, M’23

Olivia Colombo

“Children's Hospital is where my journey with chronic illness began, and it's also where I decided I want to be a social worker. I remember sitting with one of my doctors at Children's, who is a BC alum, during my freshman year. I was telling her about my first Marathon Monday, and how much I wanted to run Boston by my senior year. She said something along the lines of ‘it's going to be hard for you, but let's get you there.’ I ran my first Boston this October, and I can't wait to run on Patriot's Day—two Bostons my senior year.”

Go-to running song: Something Beautiful by NEEDTOBREATHE


Katherine Beam ’17, M’19

“As a teacher I know that being a kid is really hard, especially for the middle school kids that I work with. Adding in pediatric cancer is something no kid should ever experience. Kids need time to be kids and to grow up without the burden of fighting a terrible disease. I can’t think of a better cause to raise money for then pediatric cancer treatment and research.”

Go-to running song: X Gon’ Give It To Ya by DMX

Katherine Beam


Joseph Bednar ’24

Charity: Dana-Farber

“My mom and grandfather had cancer. It affects so many Americans, and I just want to do my part to help.”

Go-to running song: Gonna Fly Now by Bill Conti


Mary Brooks ’22

Charity: 261 Fearless

“Kathrine Switzer was the first woman to run the Boston Marathon. She ran when women were not officially allowed, was attacked on the course, and kept running! She started 261 Fearless to empower women, regardless of their backgrounds, to run. I have struggled with my own mental and physical health, and I have not always had a loving relationship with my mind and body. Running has served to make me feel strong; it allows me to explore and take my body to new places.”

Go-to running song: I Am Woman by Emmy Meli

Mary Brooks


Emma Frazier M.Ed. '23, Jack Bracher '22, and Director of BC Web Services Scott Olivieri '90, M.A. '15, Ph.D '19

Charity: Campus School


Felipe Pardo ’22

“With my time in Boston coming to a close, I want to take the opportunity to give back to the community that has taught me so much. The Red Sox Foundation's core partnerships focus on improving the lives of Boston's underprivileged youth, their families, and the health of all Bostonians.”


Dylan Nadeau ’20

“Boston College is rooted in a world view that calls us to learn, to search for truth, and to live in service to others. The Red Cross embodies these values by serving locally, helping with the ongoing blood shortage, and globally, sending 1,000 tons of emergency aid to more than 300,000 people across Ukraine. They are always helping others in a world that needs their kindness and care.”

Dylan Nadeau


Ashley Vincent ’22

Ashley Vincent

“Since losing my dad to brain cancer at such a young age, I have always been looking for ways to bring awareness to this cause and let others know they are not alone. The National Brain Tumor Society is fighting to find a cure for brain tumors, honoring those who are battling these diseases, and with the money raised, making sure that fewer people have to experience this reality every day.”

Go-to running song: Mr. Blue Sky by Electric Light Orchestra 


Maíra Marques Samary M’22, Assistant Professor of the Practice, Computer Science

Charity: Dana-Farber

“I run for my Annas: In honor of my grandma, Anna, and to offer a better future, cancer free (hopefully), to my daughter Anna.”

Go-to running song: Pompeii by Bastille


John "Jack" Grady ’23

Charity: Dana-Farber

“Dana-Farber helped save my mom's life in 2008 when she was diagnosed with cancer. There is no better way to honor her and support cutting-edge cancer research than to be a part of Dana-Farber's Marathon Challenge Team.”

Go-to running song: Heart of Gold by Neil Young

John Grady


Mae Mae Utsch ’22

Mae Mae Utsch

“After Gillian Reny was injured in the the tragic 2013 marathon bombings, the Reny Family established The Gillian Reny Stepping Strong Center for Trauma Innovation to help trauma patients like Gillian regain their strength and ability to step strong once again. I believe that together we can make a real difference in the lives of many and continue to honor the Boston Strong spirit that defines our city today.”

Go-to running song: All These Things That I've Done by The Killers


Jackson Recht ’22

"It means so much to be able to impact the youth around the city of Boston. The Bruins Foundation is able to dedicate funds to charities that have a large impact on getting Boston’s children active."

Race-day motivation: “Seeing my friends at the top of Heartbreak Hill.”

Go-to running song: Trucks by Spacey Jane


Rory O'Connor ’14

Charity: Dana-Farber

“A friend of mine lost a battle to cancer when we were teenagers and during that time, I did the full Jimmy Fund Marathon Walk. It has always been a dream of mine to complete the same route on Marathon Monday. The fight against cancer affects everyone and I'm proud to do my small part to help fight the disease.”

Go-to running song: Sweetness by Jimmy Eat World


Danielle Morin ’22

Charity: Hale Education

“I’m thrilled to be running for Hale Education because their programs make outdoor learning more equitable for urban students. My experiences as a tutor for Boston Public School students through the BC Neighborhood Center and as a camp counselor have shown me how important it is for all kids to have access to healthy outdoor spaces so they can thrive academically, emotionally, mentally, and physically.”

Go-to running song: Geronimo by Sheppard

Danielle Morin


Kathryn Healy ’08, M’09

Charity: Dana-Farber

Kathryn Healy

“I began running in memory of Lisa Gallup, a dear friend who lost a 14-month battle to cancer. I run for my grandfather who was unlucky enough to fight not one, but two types of cancer; for a childhood friend who fought cancer while pregnant with her second child; for my childhood best friend who lost her father to pancreatic cancer before she was old enough to drive; for the fierce Dubuc family who lost their 8-year-old son, Matty; for my friend who fought (and beat) lymphoma while he was in college, only to lose his father to cancer less than 10 years later; for a former colleague who tearfully told me that she is a breast cancer survivor; for every mother, father, grandparent, aunt, uncle, friend, son, and daughter who has to fight this terrible disease, I will run 26.2 miles on April 18 in hope that someday, they won’t have to.”

Go-to running song: Higher Love by Whitney Houston


Annie Murphy ’23

“The New England Patriots Foundation’s commitment to local philanthropic agencies makes it even more meaningful to me because I’m able to really see the impact that the foundation makes in areas around my hometown.”

Go-to running song: Mr. Brightside by The Killers


Brigid Knowles ’23

"My involvement in the Special Olympics community blossomed at an early age by interacting with my Aunt Colleen, a woman with Down syndrome, and her group of friends. My grandma Bea, a staunch supporter of Special Olympics, encouraged me to fulfill my Confirmation service hours by volunteering for this organization. What started as a simple community service activity has put me on the path to set my own goals and look to accomplish a task I have yet to achieve—running the Boston Marathon."

Two people sitting on the beach


Maureen Keegan ’10

Charity: Dana-Farber

Maureen Keegan

“My mom fought cancer in the early 1990s and is now battling it again. While she doesn't receive treatment at Dana-Farber, the work at the Barr Program includes research on things like immunotherapy, which has had a huge impact on my mom's treatment.”

Race-day motivation: “Thinking about how hard the battle against cancer is—26.2 miles is nothing compared to that.”

Go-to running song: Any combo of late 90s/early 2000s boy bands!


Nina Khaghany ’24

Charity: Family Reach

“Growing up in a household of doctors has shown me how much good one person can make in the health of another. Like my family does every day, I want to use my resources to do whatever I can to ease the hardships diseases like cancer take on patients and their families.”

Go-to running song: Cooler Than Me by Mike Posner


Chris Westfahl ’88, P’21

“My best friend's daughter, Jenna, battled congenital heart disease her whole life and passed away two years ago just shy of her 16th birthday (during her 6th heart surgery). She was a truly amazing person who continues to inspire many; her motto being ‘Be Brave, Be Kind.’ I am asking friends to contribute to the David Ortiz Children's Fund but I will also match 100% of donations with a personal donation to the CT Heart Camp in Jenna's name.”

Go-to running song: Rosalita by Bruce Springsteen

Chris Westfahl


Tommy Pace ’24

Charity: Dana-Farber

“Dana-Farber is on the front lines of transforming cancer treatment. Cancer affects so many people either directly or indirectly, and this is one way to do my part in the fight to beat it.”

Go-to running song: Baba O'Riley by The Who


Alyssa Goldman, Assistant Professor, Sociology

Charity: Pine Street Inn

Alyssa Goldman

“Homelessness and housing instability are issues that are of great importance to me, both personally and as a sociologist. Each dollar I raise will go toward Boston's Way Home Fund, which will help Pine Street Inn create 200 new units of supportive, sustainable, long-term housing for men and women experiencing chronic homelessness in the Boston area.”

Go-to running song: Marathon by Rush


Mia O’Connell ’22

Charity: Dana-Farber

“My mom is a two-time cancer survivor treated at Dana-Farber in Boston, so I am running for my mom and to celebrate her fight and all Dana-Farber did to help her."

Go-to running song: Let's Get it Started by Black Eyed Peas 


Alexandra Walsh ’22

Charity: MetroWest YMCA

“While working at a YMCA summer camp, I learned about the powerful impact of the numerous aquatic programs offered, especially the SAW (Safety around Water) program. In one particular instant, I was in charge of administering 18 kids swimming tests. Half of the group was unable to swim and I flashed back to my volunteer hours spent in the pediatric ICU. I feel passionately that every person has a right to learn how to swim at an early age, as drowning is a preventable tragedy that disportionately impacts those who are underprivileged.”

Go-to running song: Goodbye Earl by The Chicks

Alexandra Walsh

University Communications | April 2022