UMass Boston

UMass Boston’s Run for Krystle Team Reaches the Finish Line for Scholarship Fund, Despite Marathon Being Canceled

11/18/2020| Crystal Valencia

When members of UMass Boston’s Run for Krystle team first heard the news, they were devastated. For the first time in the history of the Boston Marathon, the race, with its throngs of cheering fans and ascent up the famed Heartbreak Hill, was canceled. After first being postponed, the marathon would be held virtually.

Kathleen Kirleis, Dina Scarpelli, and Rhonda Hodge ran a virtual Boston Marathonon the HarborWalk.
Kathleen Kirleis, Dina Scarpelli, and Rhonda Hodge ran a virtual Boston Marathon in honor of Krystle Campbell.

“ The resilience and dedication of the entire team is nothing short of amazing. ”

But disappointment turned into determination for the runners. While the coronavirus pandemic stopped them from running the race in-person this year, it wouldn’t stop them from crossing their own finish lines to honor the memory of UMass Boston alumna Krystle Campbell, who lost her life in the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing.

Six members of the Run for Krystle marathon team were able to get outside this fall and participate in the virtual marathon. Another member, Paul Dyson, a senior lecturer of English and UMass Boston alum, ran a virtual marathon on April 20 — the original date of the Boston Marathon — through his Walpole neighborhood.

“We were determined to conquer what we started, because we are not quitters,” four-time team member Dina Scarpelli said. “We started as a team and we ended as a team and honored Krystle’s name and all those who donated to help us reach a goal to help students with scholarships. … I am so happy our team stuck together and crossed the finish line together.”

The UMass Boston team has run the Boston Marathon for the past seven years in support of the Krystle Campbell Scholarship Fund.

The fund was founded in June 2013 by former UMass Trustee Richard Campbell ’70, H’14 and his late wife, Barbara, neither of whom are of no relation to Krystle. The fund supports College of Management students pursuing business degrees, and scholarships are based on academic performance, financial need, volunteer work, and involvement in the university and community. Four outstanding students received Krystle Campbell Scholarships earlier this year.

Even amid a pandemic and with the marathon canceled, the team has raised more than $40,000 so far this year, and donations are still being accepted for the scholarship fund.

A finish line set up on the UMass Boston campus

In deciding where to run their Boston Marathon, several members of the team decided to make it a “UMass Boston” marathon, bringing the race to campus. Five runners – Kathleen Carter Colantonio, Jen Kanyugi, Dina Scarpelli, Rhonda Hodge, and Kathleen Kirleis – took to the HarborWalk, starting at different times on a Sunday morning in September. The first group took off at 4:30 a.m. The team ran a 26.2-mile journey from the UMass Boston sign to Castle Island and back twice.

Kanyugi ’10 has run five marathons with the Run for Krystle team and raised more than $30,000, and she wasn’t about to stop this year.

“I ran for the same reason I do every year - in memory of Krystle,” she said. “The need for scholarships in her honor was crucial because of the pandemic. Sure it was a lot more training than usual but that pales in comparison to what we’ve heard from the grateful recipients. They would’ve dropped out of school if not for the much-needed funds.”

Team members first trained through the cold winter and started their training all over again in the hot summer.

“The resilience and dedication of the entire team is nothing short of amazing,” said Heather Brigham, director of college engagement in University Advancement, who organizes the team every year.

Alum and team member, Justin Gagnon, who lives in California, decided to take on the virtual marathon challenge from afar. He trained in extreme heat and ran his marathon in conditions that were less than ideal due to the poor air quality from nearby wildfires.

Justin Gagnon sitting in his home before running a virtual marathon

Gagnon, who is currently an acute care/trauma surgery physician assistant resident at the University of California, San Francisco, said that due to the Creek Fire, along with other wildfires in the area, the air quality was rated as hazardous on race day.

He placed care packages along the route for hydration and calories, and even used some garden hoses along the way.

“It took me actually 6:03 to complete. At the end I just couldn't breathe well anymore and was fatigued by the poor air quality, but I still think it was worthwhile because it was more for the cause and team than for me,” Gagnon said. “I'm glad I could support our team and represent the memory and purpose to the best of my ability. This day was a lot harder for a lot more people in 2013.”