Mary and Ruth Anne McManus at the Chestnut Hill Reservoir. (Photos by Lee Pellegrini)

Ruth Anne McManus may be a self-proclaimed “back-of-the-pack” kind of runner, but there’s nothing lagging in her passion for advocacy or knack for fundraising.

A graduate student at Boston College's Woods College of Advancing Studies, McManus launched her first charitable-giving campaign last year when she raised $8,000 for Boston non-profit Victory Programs Inc. and its ReVision Urban Farm, which creates access to farm-fresh food for communities struggling to obtain quality produce. She first started volunteering for the program in 2019 and was drawn to its mission. As a testament to all the hard work she had devoted to its cause over the years, Victory Programs asked McManus to spearhead their Friends Feeding Friends campaign in 2021. In order to bring in such a large sum for the program, she decided to run the 2022 Providence Half Marathon in Victory’s name.

This year, McManus has taken her ambitions up a notch: She’s set a goal of running three half-marathons by the end of this year, including the Providence Half Marathon next month, and raising $10,000 for Victory Programs.

Ruth Anne and Mary McManus

Woods College graduate student Ruth Anne McManus and her mother, Mary McManus '84

McManus is following in—or rather, literally accompanying—the footsteps of her mother, Mary, a 1984 graduate of the Boston College School of Social Work. Like Mary, Ruth Anne has faced significant health struggles and has found self-revitalization through running and doing for others. She also notes that the ReVision Urban Farm program’s values align with both her own moral pillars and those of Boston College.

“The Jesuit values of community, serving others, and treating the whole person” drive the work that Ruth Anne does each day. “It’s been wonderful,” she said of her experiences. “Hard work, but wonderful.”

Mother and daughter’s intertwined story began 17 years ago, when Mary was diagnosed with post-polio syndrome, a progressive neuromuscular disease. Looking for ways to lessen her muscular pain, she fell in love with running—and in doing so, inspired Ruth Anne to take it up, too. The pair ran the Boston Marathon in 2009 in support of Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital, where Mary had received treatment, raising more than $10,000.

“The Jesuit values of community, serving others, and treating the whole person” drive the work that Ruth Anne does each day. “It’s been wonderful,” she said of her experiences. “Hard work, but wonderful.”

After Ruth Anne graduated from Middle Tennessee State University in 2014, she felt increasingly ill and exhibited irrational behavior—including fits of rage and fear, and acts of self-harm—that greatly troubled her family. Her unique blend of psychological symptoms stumped doctors for seven years, and Ruth Anne was continually in and out of hospitals.

Then Mary, after realizing that Ruth Anne’s experience mirrored that of a friend’s daughter, suggested the doctors check Ruth Anne’s urine. They found a large amount of white blood cells in her system, an indication she was fighting a large infection.

“They were trying to treat the psychological symptoms without targeting the infection,” Ruth Anne explained.

She was ultimately diagnosed with an autoimmune condition called Pediatric Acute-Onset Neuropsychiatric Syndrome, or PANS. McManus was quickly put on antibiotics for the infection and further psychiatric medications to alleviate her other symptoms which could now be more easily explained and pinpointed. She also spent time in occupational therapy, an experience to which she attributes much of her growth and progress.

McManus cites the support of her family as a major reason she was able to endure the seven years of unanswered questions. Her mother’s time at BC proved to be a key asset in Ruth Anne’s battle against PANS: Mary “had a stellar education and knew the ins and outs of the system. She was a huge advocate,” said Ruth Anne.

the McManus mother and daughter stretching before a run

There was yet another factor, she added: “When doctors didn’t know what was going on, running and exercise were just my saving grace. I really relied on running to help.”

When Victory Programs reached out to McManus about the devoted volunteer leading a campaign, she realized she could use her love for running to come to the aid of others just as her mother had shown her. Volunteering at ReVision Urban Farms further opened McManus’s eyes to the world of food insecurity and she felt called to involve herself more in their work, her mother’s example guiding her every mile.

McManus describes the early days of raising money for Victory as “a labor of love.” Having grown up near Boston College and attended St. Ignatius Parish (she will proudly tell you that she was Baby Jesus in the Christmas Pageant), she worked hard to integrate this community into her campaign. She coordinated giveaways from local stores like Heartbreak Hill Running Company, held a Playa Bowls fundraising night for BC students, and posted videos to platforms like LinkedIn and YouTube every week for what she has dubbed “Fundraising Fridays.”

“I messaged everyone from my plumber to my next-door neighbor,” she said.

McManus’s dedication paid off. “My original goal was $3,000,” she noted, “but the numbers just kept climbing and climbing.” Since that original success, fundraising “has been a real sustaining factor in my life. It’s held me accountable and also has just been the one constant in my life.”

This sort of large-scale fundraising requires a certain amount of optimism and Ruth Anne exhibits this in spades. She looks back on her time in occupational therapy as “the biggest blessing” as it was then when she realized she wanted to return to school and earn a master’s degree. McManus received a Dean’s Scholarship from Woods College, where she now studies corporate communications and marketing. She is set to receive her master’s certificate in December.

When it comes to marketing, especially for a good cause, according to McManus, Woods has taught her the importance of “putting yourself out there and being brave.”

Learn more about Ruth Anne McManus’s fundraising activities here. Mary McManus has a website describing her experiences at

Meghan Keefe '24 | University Communications | May 2023