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26.2 miles and $7,000 for soup

Mater Dei students run a marathon and organize a fundraiser for Costa Mesa's Someone Cares Soup Kitchen.

January 31, 2007|By Jessie Brunner

Instead of taking a break from running when cross-country season concluded in November, Mater Dei High School sophomores Colin Keith and Garrett McRoberts immediately began a rigorous, two-month training program for the Carlsbad Marathon.

But their goal was much heftier than completing a 26.2-mile race for the first time.

Best friends Colin and Garrett turned the competition into a fundraising event for the Costa Mesa-based Someone Cares Soup Kitchen, where they'd been volunteering for several months.

"We started out thinking we would just do the marathon, but it seemed like a good idea to raise money for someone," Colin, 16, said.

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The pair initially came to the kitchen, which offers meals to more than 300 underprivileged people each day and runs a tutoring program for local elementary school children, to prepare meals and serve soup in exchange for service hours for school credit. After a few visits, they were hooked.

"The soup kitchen really had an impact on us," Garrett, 15, said. "You feel involved with these people after hearing their stories and stuff."

In addition to the time they devoted to their long-distance conditioning — which included an eight-mile route every other day and 18-mile runs on Sundays — and to the kitchen's weekend pancake breakfasts, Colin and Garrett devised a fundraising campaign.

With help from their families and friends, and the enthusiastic approval of soup kitchen workers, the runners made a website and sent out fliers and e-mails to everyone they knew, asking for sponsorship in the race.

"At first we thought they were going to bring in $500, maybe $1,000, and learn something in the process" said Someone Cares administrative coordinator Ellie Weaver, who started a separate spreadsheet to track donations from the pledge drive. "Now I see the money coming in, and I think, 'Wow!' "

Since Colin and Garrett completed the marathon on Jan. 21 — placing sixth and seventh in their division, respectively — they have collected more than $7,000 for Someone Cares, and the checks are still arriving.

Besides the benefits to the soup kitchen, the boys have gained a new appreciation for their "comfortable lives" and plan to continue their volunteer work at the kitchen and elsewhere. Furthermore, they've already recruited fellow runners to participate in next year's second annual Soup Run.

"It's good to give back to your community," Colin said. "People do stuff for you, so you have to help other people out when they need it."

Anyone wishing to become sponsor may donate via the PayPal payment service on the organization's website, www.someonecareskitchen.org, or by mailing checks directly to the kitchen at 720 W. 19th St., Costa Mesa. Please include the word "marathon" in the memo field.

Donations will be used for general maintenance as well as buying food supplies for the kitchen.

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