Long, hot run in Boston Marathon benefits others


Tuesday April 17, 2012

LEE -- A local runner in Monday’s Boston Marathon raised money and awareness for a pair of Berkshire-based efforts aimed at improving the quality of life in two African countries.

As of Monday afternoon, Matt Kinnaman received pledges of $1,870 to be shared equally between Oper ation Nehe miah and Africa Con nect. Kinna man’s mara thon en deavor, which he dubbed the "Run for Help," aimed to raise $2,620, or $100 for each mile of the 26.2-mile course he completed between Hopkinton and Boston’s Back Bay.

"I’m confident we’ll hit the goal by [today]," he said after the race.

For the 51-year-old Lee man, it’s a good sum of money to have raised over the course of 3 hours and 46 minutes in atypical Boston Marathon weather.

Operation Nehemiah, based in Lanesborough, is devoted to raising money, supplies and in-kind services for farming, medical care and fresh water in the newly independent nation of South Sudan, according to its founder William Levi.

Africa Connect in Lee concentrates on building financial support toward the education and nutrition of young school children in Kitale, Kenya. The group helps underwrite a pre-school and elementary school serving 150 children from the village, according to organizer Sue Choquette, a local nurse.

"We are very small with a small donor base," she said. "I’m delighted Matt chose our group."

Kinnaman wanted to use his second appearance in the Boston Marathon as a way to help those in need overseas.

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"A lot goes into training for a marathon and I wanted to capitalize on that training on behalf of those [two groups] making a difference," he said prior to the race. "The need in South Sudan and Kenya is so huge: Nutrition, education and medical care."

In addition, drilling wells for fresh water is a top priority in South Sudan, according to William Levi, founder and president of Operation Nehemiah.

Levi praised Kinnaman for helping people the long-distance runner has never met.

"Because of the plight of the people in South Sudan, I feel I need to be a voice for them -- but I can’t do it alone."

Levi, a 47-year-old Lanes borough resident, formed Operation Nehemiah in 1993, five years after he escaped to the U.S. from the southern part of Sudan ravaged by a civil war.

While Levi’s father was killed in the fighting, his mother, three brothers and five sisters fled to a refugee camp in Uganda in 1989. Levi’s mother died in the camp in 1994, but his siblings returned to their home village of Borongole in 2007 two years after the war ended. A 2005 peace agreement resulted in the creation of South Sudan, officially recognized as a sovereign nation last July.

Since the peace accord was reached, Levi has visited his homeland several times, most recently in February accompanied by his wife Hannah, a native of Vermont, and the couple’s six children.

"I see progression [in South Sudan] and a people free and hopeful about rebuilding the country," he said.

To reach Dick Lindsay:
or (413) 496-6233.


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