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Teachers Hit the Pavement for Colleagues, Children in Need

Braving chilly morning temps, CEA members and their families came out in force today at the 24th annual Eversource Hartford Marathon. Some wore race bibs and running shoes; others staffed concessions booths or served as race monitors—but everyone worked toward the same goal: supporting students and fellow teachers through the Connecticut Education Foundation (CEF).

 

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CEF President and CEA Vice President Jeff Leake crosses the finish line at this year’s 5K.

CEA’s charitable arm, the Connecticut Education Foundation raises money to help children and teachers facing extraordinary personal hardships. The foundation also provides scholarships for students planning teaching careers.

This is CEF’s fourth year as an official charity of the marathon.

Miles of smiles

“For Team CEF, it’s not just about the race,” says CEA Vice President and CEF President Jeff Leake. “It’s about the cause.”

Earlier this month, CEF’s Boland Fund helped the family of a Bridgeport teacher who lost everything in a home fire. CEF’s other funds provide scholarships for students pursuing teaching careers, as well as everything from blankets and toys to backpacks and books for children in need.

Liz Reed-Swale, a music teacher at CREC Aerospace Elementary School in Rocky Hill, says many children in her school benefit from the kind of assistance that CEF provides.

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Teacher Liz Reed-Swale beat her personal best this year.

Describing her school’s population as a mix of suburban and urban students, she says, “CEF directly helps our kids who don’t have enough to eat or who need a winter coat or a backpack. I’m so excited to join this team and raise money for an organization that will help provide our students with the resources they need to succeed. I’m also excited to be a healthy role model for my own children and my students.”

Reed-Swale finished the 5K in 27 minutes, beating her personal best time.

Fellow runner Tim Percoski, a Windsor Locks chemistry teacher who signed up for the full marathon, said, “I can think of no better way to give back than to run with CEF as my charity.”

Family time

Suffield High School math teacher and local President Mark Janick, who ladled out soup to last year’s race finishers, returned with his wife and seven-year-old daughter this year to run the 5K.

“Volunteering last year was a lot of fun,” he recalls. “We’re models for our students, so it’s important to show that we give back to the community. This year, Melissa and I wanted to start some new traditions for our family, and we thought it would be great to run together with our daughter, Dallas. We’ve been practicing running every night to get in shape.”

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Melissa and Mark Janick and their daughter, Dallas, give a wave at the 5K finish line. The family has volunteered in the past and ran for the first time this year.

Though it is only his second year with Team CEF at the marathon, Janick has supported the foundation for years by participating in the annual Hands Across the Green summer golf tournament.

“I would encourage all my fellow teachers to get involved in some way,” he says. “Not only are you out there getting exercise, but you’re also raising money for a great charity.”

Marilyn Mathes, CEA’s director of affiliate services and member training, also ran the 5K with her seven-year-old daughter, Emma.

“A CEA colleague convinced me to race a few years ago,” says Mathes, “and I’ve been running it ever since. CEF is a great charity supporting students and teachers in need.”

Emma adds, “It’s a great way to stay fit and do something for a great cause.”

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CEA’s Marilyn Mathes and her daughter, Emma, rest up after completing the 5K.

Friendly competition

Cooperative Educational Services teacher and CEA Secretary Stephanie Wanzer, who has been with Team CEF since its inception, logged her fourth year with the Hartford marathon, as did Neil Shilansky, chair of the Boland Fund.

“I like to run,” Shilansky says. “It’s a way of taking care of myself while we help take care of others.” The Boland Fund, he says, recently provided financial assistance to a teacher whose critically ill child underwent specialized medical treatments that required long-distance travel and accommodations not covered by health insurance. The fund also helped a teacher who had exhausted all his sick time recovering from a serious car accident.

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Team CEF runners this year included (L-R) Mark, Melissa, and Dallas Janick; Liz Reed-Swale, Katy Gale, Neil Shilansky, Stephanie Wanzer, Jeff Leake, and Marty Deren.

Wanzer says she loves running with fellow educators. “My colleague Katy Gale and I always have a friendly competition to see who brings in the most donations. This year, we are neck and neck! I run because I believe in what this foundation does to help students in need. I have seen the gratitude from parents who are struggling and who find a little relief in their lives, thanks to educators in our union who help out through CEF. I am proud to be a runner for this great cause again.”

Behind the scenes

CEA-Retired President Gloria Brown and Secretary Karen DiMenna are volunteering for the first time.

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CEA’s Mary Pat Soucy joins Catherine Leake in handing out fruit and baked goods to race finishers.

“I’m here,” says Brown, “because so many people who have done this before have told me what a great day it is and how much fun they have had. I’m also glad to be able to support CEF and the CEA members who have come out to run.”

Volunteering for the third year, Tricia Conduah enjoys the diversity of the race—which includes people of all abilities, ages, and walks of life.

“So many of them thank us for volunteering and giving up our time. I’m not only glad that I could help, but that I’ve also been able to expose my children and their friends to this great event and volunteering opportunity. This year I convinced a fellow teacher from North Haven to come with her daughter as well.”

NEA Director and Westport’s Coleytown Middle School library media specialist John Horrigan is a seasoned marathon volunteer who usually works the food tent but tried something different this year with his wife. “This time we’re race monitors,” he said. “I would tell anyone who’s considering volunteering that this is great teacher outreach to the community.”

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In the predawn hours before the race started, CEA teachers, staff, and family members gathered at CEA’s offices to prepare for a day of volunteering.

Who benefits from CEF?
Established in 1991, the nonprofit Connecticut Education Foundation consists of four funds:
• The Edward J. Boland Fund provides relief for active CEA members facing extraordinary or catastrophic personal circumstances, such as a serious family illness, unforeseen disaster, or other financial crisis.
• The Children’s Fund supplies basic necessities such as clothing, food, medicine, eyeglasses, and hearing aids for children in need.
• The Ethnic Minority Scholarship Fund supports qualified ethnic minority high school seniors intending to enter the teaching profession in Connecticut.
• The DiGiovanni Future Teachers Scholarship Fund supports children of CEA members who plan to follow their parents into the teaching profession.

Still time to donate
While the race ends today, the fundraising campaign continues.

“Every donation is greatly appreciated and goes a long way toward helping students and teachers,” says Leake.

Donations are being accepted through the end of October. Checks made out to CEF should be mailed to Jeff Leake, CEA, 21 Oak Street, Suite 500, Hartford, CT 06106.

Watch the marathon video below.

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