Runners Use Their Hands to Help New Yorkers in Need

Story & photos by Laura Reinhardt / © World Vision

"Stong pace, strong pace," a marathoner said to a fellow runner. Another runner called out a time: "That's a minute and 38 seconds." But these athletes, members of Team World Vision, weren't competing in the New York City Marathon, as they had intended when arriving in the city in early November 2012.

Team World Vision members unload relief supplies in Yonkers, New York

With the race cancelled in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, the 16 runners instead volunteered to help World Vision assemble family food kits to help storm survivors.

Team World Vision members had spent months training and raising funds to provide clean water in Africa and Haiti. Among them was Tim Fearn-Wannan, who had traveled for a day and a half to get to New York from Melbourne, Australia. He felt disappointed not to be able to run in his first New York City Marathon. But he put his situation in context.

"There's bigger things... going on around here at the moment to deal with, so I guess in that way that's helped to deal with not running the marathon," he said.

On the day before the scheduled race, team members traveled to World Vision's warehouse in the Bronx to build 300 family food kits. They set up an assembly line of packages of dried oatmeal, rice, beans, macaroni and cheese, lentils, and accompanying spices. The kits offer enough food to feed a family of five for a day.

Team World Vision volunteers build Family Food Kits for Superstorm Sandy relief

That day, CNN reported that 2.4 million people in New York and New Jersey were still without power. Temperatures were dropping and another winter storm was on its way.

In addition to food kits, World Vision distributed flood cleanup kits, blankets, and hygiene kits to Superstorm Sandy survivors.

Cheron Cole, one of the runners-turned-volunteers, said she hoped the food kits would give recipients "not only nourishment while they don't have access to food, but... a little hope that someone is thinking of (them) during this very difficult time."

Cheron knows about that firsthand. She said she couldn't help but think of the time she and her husband had to evacuate their home in Colorado Springs, Colorado, because of raging wildfires. "Truly in those times of disaster," she said, "you don't think about anything else but helping people, taking care of them, making sure that they have food to eat or a place to stay."

Cheron and Ryan Cole of Team World Vision helped build Family Food Kits to help with World Vision's disaster response to Superstorm Sandy

For Team World Vision members, the opportunity to provide that hope offered them a silver-lining alternative to the marathon.

"It's making me feel very happy and pleased that I can do something" Tim said. "I could have sat in the hotel room. I could have gone sightseeing and probably would have still felt pretty empty. But this is a good feeling that there are people out there in a pretty bad situation at the moment, and we're doing our small part to help out with that."