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Guest column: Jenny Dell on running to heal veterans at Run-Walk to Home Base

Posted by David D'Onofrio  April 24, 2013 04:00 PM

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On May 4, the Red Sox Foundation and Massachusetts General Hospital will hold the annual Run-Walk to Home Base, a 9K finishing at home plate inside Fenway Park and raising funds that provide clinical care for veterans with combat stress or traumatic brain injury, as well as support services and counseling for wounded vets' families.

Since she participated for the first time last year, we asked NESN's Jenny Dell (who is joined by General Jack Hammond, Executive Director of the Home Base Program, in the photo below) to pen a guest post relating that experience and talking about her reasons for running again this year.

By Jenny Dell, NESN Red Sox Reporter
@JennyDellNESN

I’ve been asked to contribute a blog post about my participation in the annual Run-Walk to Home Base, which is just a few weeks away. Since the horrible events that unfolded on Patriots Day are still fresh in all of our minds, I’m sure you will understand why I am more motivated than ever to help raise money to help the Red Sox Foundation and Massachusetts General Hospital Home Base Program provide clinical care for veterans with combat stress or traumatic brain injury. I’m also going to make sure I spend a little more time training for this year’s race than I did last year.

D31_8240I admit that last year, I suffered from delusions of grandeur. I’m actually not much of a runner. But I not only boasted that I would beat my fellow NESN sportscaster Tom Caron, I also only ran one time before the event -- on a treadmill. Now, granted, I did the full 9K – 5.6 miles – but it was on a consistent slope, in a comfortable temperature. The actual run around Boston to Fenway was more hilly and hot.

TC must have mentioned at least ten times during our broadcast after the run that he beat me. But he’s actually a runner, so it wasn’t that surprising. I did at least beat him at fundraising, thanks to the generosity of my friends, family, and Sox fans. I kept reminding him that’s what mattered most. (Want to donate? Please click here!)

This year, despite getting sick and juggling a very busy schedule, I’m vowing to prepare. I’d planned to start on the treadmill, then get out on the streets – at least a little. But I know, ultimately, it’s the other runners who will inspire me all the way to the finish line at Fenway’s home plate.

Last year, I met the team from the Wounded Warrior Project, whose crucial work with veterans and fundraising efforts were awe-inspiring. I was moved as vets and families shared eye-opening stories and struggles at the pre-run ceremony. And I saw wounded vets – some running on prosthetics – smiling and chugging right along with me. (I thought to myself, “Pick it up, girl!”)

This cause touches all of our lives. Everyone knows someone who has served or is currently serving our country. It’s now estimated that 30 percent of those who served in Iraq or Afghanistan suffer from the invisible wounds of war. In New England alone, an estimated 50,000 Iraq or Afghanistan veterans are affected by traumatic brain injury or combat stress.

Combat stress and brain injuries aren’t obvious – they’re not physical, not immediately apparent. That’s why we must remove the stigma, and encourage soldiers and their families to share their stories, and get the help they need.

At last year’s run, I heard how post-traumatic stress disorder can lead to other long-lasting conditions, such as alcoholism and depression. These soldiers have been through so much. Treating their stress before it leads to other problems is crucial.
With everything the city of Boston is going through right now, let’s keep the health and well-being of our brave service members and their families close to our hearts. I’m proud to add my efforts to an event that raises awareness and funds for this important cause – through a fun and powerfully moving run at our beloved Fenway Park.

I can’t wait to run again this year! I’m just not promising to beat anyone.

Jenny Dell is a Red Sox reporter for NESN. To sign up, donate, or find more information about the Run-Walk to Home Base, click here.

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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Dave D'Onofrio follows Boston's pro players away from the field, court or ice, covering their interests and activities in the community and beyond. A Massachusetts native, once his dreams of More »

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