A Marathon with Purpose

As told to Erin Anguish, Communications Coordinator

Smiling woman and her sonZachary, the son of FCSN Board Member Susan Arndt, is 15 years old and has complex health care needs. Since 2014, he has taken part in SMILE MASS’s annual Gobble Wobble, a fall event that includes a 5k run, a kids’ “fun walk”, and encourages full participation by individuals with special needs. Nicole Arpiarian, an avid runner who tied on her first pair of trainers in the fourth grade, was randomly paired with Zachary to push his stroller. “He just loves to go fast,” says his mother, Susan, “and he loves to be around people who are having a good time.”

Nicole had such a good time that she ran with Zach the following year, and the year after that. Eventually she, her running partner, her husband, two of Zachary‘s camp friends and Zach’s teacher had all become part of the team, taking turns pushing him along the course each November. Susan reminisced that he would be “all smiles” after each race and he also enjoys being the center of attention surrounded by caring adults and friends who understand him even though he’s nonverbal.

Woman pushes boy in running strollerDue to some medical issues this past year, Zachary wasn’t able to participate in the race. Nicole ran as usual, but was crestfallen to learn that usual partner would be missing out on one of his favorite activities. At the time, she was beginning her training for the Boston Marathon. One day on the treadmill, her workout seemed harder than usual. Each step was a struggle, and as the minutes dragged on she caught herself feeling worn-out instead of energized. Just then she thought of pushing Zach in his stroller, and she realized just how much running meant to her. At the same time, it dawned on her that she sometimes took this ability, the simple act of RUNNING, for granted. Right then, she decided to run the race in Zach’s honor, raising money for the Federation.

Although Nicole has run Boston many times, this is her first year being involved with fundraising. She set up a page on FirstGiving with a goal of raising $5,000. It’s incredibly meaningful, both for the Federation and for Zach and Susan, who look forward to watching the race from the sidelines, waiting for Nicole to pass them by. In a twist of almost-forgotten coincidence, Susan recalled that Zach was, in fact, born on the day of the Boston Marathon. She and her husband were fortunate that Susan didn’t need to go to the hospital until after the race was over, even though the contractions started that morning. So it seems quite fitting that Zach is Nicole’s inspiration for her 2018 run.

Thank you to Zach, Susan, Nicole, and all who have so generously donated! If you would like to contribute, her page can be found here on FirstGiving. All monies raised will be put towards our work helping families and children with special needs.