These partnerships with the BAA and John Hancock are coveted slots. Each year, hundreds of local charities apply to be part of those official fundraising programs. Barbara Sicuso, director of the BAA’s registration services and charity program, describes a rigorous evaluation process in which each charity’s impact and status as a partner is reviewed annually.
Some have complained about the advantage given to charity runners and others slots gifted by the BAA to nonqualifying competitors. Others say allowing nonqualifying runners into the race has weakened the “elite” status of the marathon – although these runners make up a small share of participants.
Qualifying runners also participate on BAA/John Hancock charity teams. And charity fundraising surrounding the marathon is not limited to those official partners. Many qualifying runners work individually or in teams to raise money for other causes and organizations. This year, for example, a team of nine runners from Newtown, Conn., ran to raise money for local charities. Some estimate that including unaffiliated charity fundraising puts the total fundraising figure throughout the marathon’s history closer to $200 million.
Gemmer says being part of the team running to benefit the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute is about much more than fundraising goals and race times. She and other charity team runners cite a strong sense of camaraderie and commitment to a larger cause. This year especially, Gemmer and her teammates have leaned on that bond, gathering in a local bar last Tuesday to support one another and take stock of events.