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McGrath to run Boston Marathon for charity

Homewood Police Chief Denise McGrath participates in the 2017 Torch Run to benefit Special Olympics. In addition to local fundraisers, she has run a number of long races, including marathons, to raise money for charity. (Chronicle file photo)

Homewood Police Chief Denise McGrath is modest about her talent as a runner, but she said her running superpower might not be speed. She has proven to be talented at running up donations for good causes.

Her latest project will take her to Boston, where she will run the Boston Marathon for the first time. The run will help raise money for Semper Fi & America’s Fund, an organization that helps critically wounded, ill and injured service members, veterans and military families.

McGrath first connected with the organization in 2017 when she ran the Big Sur Marathon in California and was looking for a charity she could help.

“I was just looking for something to make the miles more meaningful,” she said.


She checked on the organization, discovered it had received an A+ rating from Charity Watch, a service that assesses how efficiently charities operate, including the percentage of funds raised that go directly to beneficiaries of the mission and the cost involved in raising money.

“I ended up running with them for Big Sur Marathon,” McGrath said. “I really liked the people. I’ve  been involved with them ever since then.”

Good people making good use of donations was part of the organization’s appeal for McGrath. She was also impressed with the approach to care the organization employs. Rather than a one-size-fits-all approach, each beneficiary receives customized care.

“Beyond what your physical needs or financial needs may be, they very much want to provide a sense of community for the people that they support,” she said. “That’s a big thing. Your mental health and feeling like there’s a light at the end of the tunnel and getting that emotional support is so important when people’s lives have been completely changed by something that’s beyond their control.”

Her goal is to raise $10,000 for Semper Fi & America’s Fund. As of March 19 she had raised $7,912 with about a month to go before the marathon on April 15. Donors can continue to give up to the day of the race and perhaps a little beyond, she said.

Denise McGrath sometimes runs races with an American flag in
honor of someone’s memory. She then presents the flag
to the person’s family. (Provided photo)

She sometimes runs with an American flag to honor someone, often military or police personnel who have died. The first time she carried a flag was in the Naperville Women’s Half Marathon to honor Carmen Schentrup, who was killed in the February 2018 mass shooting in Parkland, Florida.

After the race, she sent the flag to Carmen’s parents.

McGrath also participates each year in the law enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics. She said that event will take place June 4 this year.

Raising money for charity is how McGrath makes the miles have meaning, but she also makes up in dedication for what she might lack in speed.

She began running in 1992 while at the Police Training Institute in Champaign.

“I have no natural ability to run. We would run three to five miles in the morning before class would start, and I was always the last person in,” she said. “But I liked it.”

She puts in the training miles necessary to be able to take part in distance races. As an all-season runner, she said there are only a few conditions that will keep her from running outdoors, including ice and extreme cold.

Boston will be her 11th marathon. She also has run in the Chicago Marathon and often serves as a volunteer when she’s not running it.

She encourages people who think about running to give distance racing a try. She works with Chicago Area Runners Association groups that help people learn and develop stamina.

“If I can do a marathon, you can do a marathon,” she said.

To donate to McGrath’s Boston Marathon run, visit¬†bit.ly/mcgrathmarathon.

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