It was going to be a marathon through the Big Apple, but now it's a race to get help to those in need. About two hours, a flurry of phone calls and the determination of the human spirit when others are in need is all it took for a local team of New York City Marathon runners to turn a negative into a positive.
The minute we heard that the marathon was canceled, we, as a team, said, ‘How can we help? We have to do something and put this race day to good use,' Ryan Leckey of WNEP-TV said.
This is the third year he and a group of local people were a part of the marathon. Instead of chalking the cancellation of the event up to a loss, Ryan's Run 3, or RR3, was turned into Ryan's Recovery, a collection event for the victims of Hurricane Sandy that was held Sunday afternoon at the Allied Services Scranton campus and Heinz Rehab Hospital in Wilkes-Barre Township.
We are 15 minutes into this and there's already 30 cars waiting to drop things off, Leckey said of the turnout at the Scranton Allied location. It's so impressive, and so inspiring.
The Wilkes-Barre Township location was seeing much of the same.
This was to start at noon and it wasn't even 11 o'clock yet and we had people lined up in this parking lot waiting to give, said Jim Brogna, assistant vice president of advancement at Allied and a Ryan's Run team member.
The decision concerning the marathon had been controversial leading up to and even after its cancellation, and Brogna said some team members were feeling the conflict themselves.
We have a member whose family was flooded here last year, and he said, ‘Did you go jog through their neighborhood after it happened?' It tears your heart out to think we were going to potentially run in something like that.
Either way, the team was planning to move forward with the marathon.
You know, we were doing it for the people we raise awareness and money for, and we wanted to show them that quitting is just not an option, Leckey said. But I have to say, when it was canceled I think most of us felt a sense of relief.
As car after car pulled up in the Heinz parking lot, Brogna's sense of relief over what happened with the marathon quickly turned to something much more.
This is heartwarming, he said. The human spirit. … it's incredible.
People dropped off everything from cleaning supplies to clothes and children's toys. Local trucking company Road Scholar Transport provided the tractor-trailer for the load, with president Jim Barrett telling Brogna he would take the supplies wherever he needed.
All of the proceeds raised for Ryan's Run will stay locally through Allied, and Allied Services has donated a dollar for each employee to the NYC Mayor's Hurricane Relief Fund, totaling a $3,200 donation.
So, just how will the team determine where to send things? To the areas that need it most, Brogna said, something it can figure out because one of its own is currently in Staten Island, lending a hand.
I was going through the Lincoln Tunnel on Friday when they announced the marathon was canceled, said Jason Rippon, a runner and owner of McDonald's eateries in Lock Haven and Lewisburg. I still went to the expo center and registered and I started seeking people out, seeing what they were doing, seeing how I could help. I found a group of marathoners who were heading out to help and hooked up with them, and we've been doing what we can ever since.
Rippon said he can see things starting to come back to life through the devastation, though there's much work to be done. The amount of help he has seen from marathoners alone has lifted his spirits.
There are people from all over the world helping out, he said. A group of young ladies from London were carrying supplies around the other day. It's incredible. I feel better being here; I feel like I've accomplished something.
Brogna came to find there were people in his life, unexpectedly, that had family in the affected areas and knew just where supplies were going to be needed. He has worked with John Hinds, a cook at Allied, for years, and didn't realize he was raised in Seaside Heights.
It's my hometown, Hinds said as he opened up his jacket to reveal a T-shirt with Jersey Shore emblazoned on it among pictures of the area. Tears threatened to spill over as he continued, My godchildren that live there, they lost everything.
That picture of the rollercoaster in Seaside? We were just on it, over the summer with our son, John's wife, Chris, said, recalling how watching the superstorm coverage made her sick to her stomach. It was the first time we were down there in five years, and now … it's just gone.
Despite the tragedy, John said days like Sunday help to alleviate some of the pain.
It's wonderful to see this, to see people so willing to help out.
Leckey echoes John's sentiment.
It's inspiring and impressive. I've always said it: Northeastern and Central Pennsylvania are packed with people with big hearts.