• Shawn Garrison: Run to honor Boston victims

  • “People who don't think kindness exists need to come to Boston and see some Bostonians.” – Lee's Summit resident Diana Stauffer.

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  • “People who don't think kindness exists need to come to Boston and see some Bostonians.” – Lee's Summit resident Diana Stauffer.
    On Monday, I talked to three women from Eastern Jackson County who ran in Monday's Boston Marathon. They crossed the finish line about 15 minutes before the first of two bombings that killed three people, including an 8-year-old boy who was cheering on his dad, and injured more than 140. Like so many others, they were horrified by such a senseless act of terror that has scarred one of the country's great athletic traditions.
    In the wake of the tragedy, the country is searching for answers. Just like Columbine. And Sept. 11. Tucson. Aurora. Newtown.
    But I keep going back to that quote from Stauffer. She ran the race with two of her friends, Stacy Scalfaro and Alison Hatfield. They saw the panic and heard the screams. They felt the fear.
    And then they experienced the kindness of a city that stared terror in the eye and didn't blink. As Stauffer, Scalfaro and Hatfield described the chaotic scene, they also spoke of the way strangers came to the rescue of many injured or stranded runners and spectators. A woman in a wheelchair passed out blankets. Some runners, after putting themselves through 26.2 miles of pure hell, crossed the finish line and dashed off to the hospital to donate blood for the victims.
    Scalfaro saw a mother leading her frightened 8-year-old daughter into the streets because people were in need and they could help. The woman said she wanted to set an example for her child.
    That's heroic.
    We don't know how many people were behind Monday's bombings. But I'd guess it's dwarfed by the number of courageous individuals who united to help the victims.
    That's the thing about this country. At times, it's divided by petty politics. And because of the freedoms we enjoy, some lunatics are occasionally able to carry out horrific acts of violence. (Although it should be emphasized how rare those acts actually are.)
    But in times of crisis, we're brought closer together because we're a resilient people.
    As news of Monday's bombings broke, millions of people expressed their concern and support for the victims on social networking sites. On Twitter, #prayforBoston was a trending topic.
    Those sentiments are well-intentioned, but I think there's a better way to honor the victims.
    Every weekend there are thousands of races held across the country. Many of those send a portion of the event registration fees to charitable organizations. A quick search on www.runningintheusa.com shows races slated for this weekend within 25 miles of Kansas City benefiting the fight against hunger and pancreatic cancer. One in Shawnee, Kan., will send donations to at-risk children in South Africa. The Nature's Pantry Spring into Fitness 5K Run/Walk in Independence will benefit the Marian Hope Center for Children's Therapies.
    Page 2 of 2 - I'm encouraging everyone to sign up for a race of their choice to pay homage to those who died Monday. You don't have to be an avid runner. You can walk. You can cheer on the other runners. But imagine the impact a huge surge in donations from these races could make.
    Three people died Monday. Nothing's changing that. But by helping the hundreds of causes these races support, it's possible to make the world a better place. It's possible to make sure those deaths weren't for nothing. And it's possible to send a message to the cowards behind Monday's attack that they can't shake us.
    You'd be hard pressed to find a more tight-knit group of people than the running community. Running’s a sport defined more by its sense of togetherness than competition. That spirit was personified Monday in Boston. Now it's our turn.
    Honor Boston. Run for Boston.
    Follow Shawn Garrison on Twitter: @GarrisonEJC

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