By David R. Smith
Somerville resident Laura Mancuso became friends with Sean Collier playing on an adult kickball team, and now she is honoring his memory as co-captain of “Team Collier” in the annual Boston Marathon Jimmy Fund Walk.
She and her fellow co-captain, Quincy resident Chandra Allard, recently received a “Spirit Award” at the Jimmy Fund and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute’s third annual Summit on Fundraising for raising $61,000 during last year’s walk. Collier’s sister, Jennifer Lemmerman, attended the event with Allard and Mancuso.
“We thank Chandra and Laura for leading Team Collier during a time of uncertainty and sadness in the Boston community,” Jimmy Fund Director Suzanne Fountain said. “Their leadership is an extension of the unwavering commitment that Sean maintained for years, and they have inspired us and so many others to go the extra mile.”
Mancuso and Allard had initially started two teams in honor of Collier and later merged them to create a larger group that walked up to 26.2 during last year’s event.
Collier, the 27-year-old Somerville resident and MIT police officer who was fatally shot by the alleged marathon bombing suspects April 18 of last year, was a dedicated supporter of the Jimmy Fund since high school, making recurring gifts on a monthly basis. As teenagers in high school, Collier and his sister heard about the Jimmy Fund while listening to the annual WEEI/NESN Jimmy Fund Radio Telethon during a summer job they held together at a medical office.
“Sean would talk about the stories of the young cancer patients on our car ride home, and you could tell they had an impact on him,” Lemmerman said. “He wanted to do something to help, so he set up automatic payments from his bank account in order to make regular contributions to the Jimmy Fund, and he did that up until he died.”
Mancuso met Colllier in 2011, with both playing on an adult kickball team called “Kickhopopotamus,” which she described as a close-knit group.
“Sean Collier was a good friend of mine,” she said. “After Sean was killed, we began looking for things to do to both heal and honor Sean. When we heard that the Jimmy Fund was Sean’s favorite charity, we knew we had to be involved. I was able to connect with Sean’s siblings and hear other stories about him and share my own, which was nice.”
Team Collier, which crossed the finish line together, wore matching T-shirts and exceeded its fundraising goal of $26,200 – a thousand dollars for every mile of the Boston Marathon route. In 2013, Team Collier raised more than $61,000 for the Boston Marathon Jimmy Fund Walk.
“A play on ‘Boston Strong,’ ‘Collier Strong’ has become a slogan for many members of the team,” Lemmermen said. “At every mile marker throughout the walk, teammates would shout, ‘How strong? Collier Strong!’ and received a thumbs up or even hugs from spectators who were inspired by Sean’s story.”
She added that she received a message prior to the event that the police chief in Hopkinton would like to meet the team before they started. What the team didn’t know, though, was that the police departments in the first several towns along the route were planning a police escort for the team, riding alongside them with their lights on in a show of support for Sean and everyone walking in his memory.
“It was amazing,” she said.
Team Collier will join more than 8,500 participants in the walk Sunday, Sept. 21. The 2014 event goal is to raise more than $7.5 million, bringing the Boston Marathon Jimmy Fund Walk’s 26-year fundraising total to more than $100 million.
“My experience participating in the event was very meaningful,” Mancuso said.
To register, or to support a walker participant, visit www.JimmyFundWalk.org or call 866-531-9255.