Mother. Educator. Wife. Active community member. Kendra Campbell is many things. She is now a runner and an inspiration, too.
Raised and residing in Marshfield, Campbell will arrive at the start line of the 2015 Boston Marathon as a member of Team MR8, the charitable running team of the Martin Richard Foundation. Eight-year-old Martin was one of three killed in the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings. He had attended that race with his parents and two siblings.
“Whenever I run, I have my black running jacket, and I keep a picture of Martin in my pocket,’’ Campbell told Boston.com as she prepared for the marathon. “When I get tired and I don’t want to run anymore that becomes my greater reason for it.’’
In 2013, Campbell was a teacher at the Neighborhood House Charter School in Dorchester where Martin was a student. Martin’s mother, Denise, was the school librarian. Following the tragic events at the 2013 marathon, an image of Martin holding a sign that read “No more hurting people. Peace.’’ became a symbol of compassion amid the horror. Martin’s parents created the Martin W. Richard Charitable Foundation to honor his memory and spread that message of peace.
“The whole thing hit close to home for those of us that were there,’’ Campbell said.
In the aftermath of the bombing, Campbell and her colleagues focused on the emotional needs of their students. Looking back, the resiliency of the children stands out to her.
“It seemed like the kids sort of handled it a lot better than some of the adults,’’ she said.
When her second daughter was born in April 2014, Campbell left the classroom. With a renewed sense of the preciousness of the present, she wanted to be at home with her young daughters. Still, she felt that she hadn’t fully come to grips with the attack that had so damaged her community.
“I felt like never did enough to adequately honor what had taken place,’’ she said. “Everyone I think in Boston, or maybe even the country, your life sort of changes when something like this happens. Really, just for me, it was really seeing firsthand the need to really treasure every single day because you never really know what is going to happen.
“It was just really a reality check that hit closer to home than I would have liked. It really did change my perspective on a lot of things. Looking at my kids when there’s something crazy going on and when I get frustrated to need to stop and say, ‘No, this is not a big deal. Oh, you got the wrong coffee at Dunkin’ Donuts? It’s not a big deal. There is so much more to be grateful for.’ That’s something that I really did take from that. I never felt like I did enough to show, to honor that and I just never felt for me like I had done enough.’’
Campbell, who hadn’t even run a 5k until the summer of 2014, applied for a spot on Team MR8 when she saw a message on the foundation’s Facebook page. Initially, she didn’t tell her family or friends that she had applied to run. Surprised when she was granted a spot, Campbell turned to her husband, Taylor, to help convince her to accept the honor.
“I got the email on Veterans Day that I had been offered a spot on the team and I just started to panic,’’ she recalled. “Can I actually do this? It’s so much and I’m not sure. So, I spoke to my husband about it and we talked. He was like, ‘You have to do it. You’ve wanted to do something for a long time. You obviously sent in the application for a reason. They want you. You have to do it.’ So, I responded back that I wanted to do it. Ever since then, I’ve just been running and fundraising and just trying to make the most of this.’’
As a member of Team MR8, Campbell has been able to address everything that transpired in a way that dovetailed with her passions for education and community.
“The Martin Richard Foundation is really doing a lot with education and athletics and community, and I think that message is one that needs to be shared,’’ she said. “I will do anything to help spread that and help them keep on working with the projects that they’re starting up.’’
Through her work with Team MR8, Campbell has also been exposed to the charitable side of the marathon. Her interactions with CharityTeams, an organization that assists multiple charities with their fundraising during the marathon, have introduced her to many runners supporting other causes.
“It’s really been a remarkable experience,’’ she said. “I had no idea that there were so many charity runners that take part in the marathon. I had no idea the amount of people that I would meet who are running for a whole slew of charities. I mean, you name a charity and there’s just so many people that are out there hours and hours and hours and hours and hours raising money. I’ve met some amazing people. It’s really been life changing, quite honestly.’’
While she has no problem at marveling at the dedication and resourcefulness of her fellow charity runners, it wasn’t quite as easy for her to think of herself as someone just as worthy of such admiration.
“I still don’t see myself as inspiring others,’’ she said. “People have donated and left messages and saying things like ‘What you’re doing is so inspiring.’ But I still don’t quite see myself as the inspirer, if that makes sense. But it’s been really, nice the support, my friends and my family, even people I haven’t seen in years.’’
Read more coverage of the 2015 Boston Marathon.