Boston Strong

Umberto Riva

As someone who’s run the Boston Marathon before, I know the thrill of running down Boylston Street. Flags from all the nations of the world fly as runners push themselves to complete one of the ultimate athletic triumphs. There are few events that tie the world together; it’s the same sense of fulfillment and discovery that we share when we travel. In the words of Umberto Riva, who ran this year’s marathon and works in Grand Circle’s Rome office: “Wherever I go, I take my running shoes. I ran in Athens under the Acropolis, in Istanbul overlooking the Bosporus, in Cairo along the Nile, and of course, I love running along the Charles River when I am in Boston.” I love the fact that one sport can unite us across the planet.

Since 1897, my home city has hosted the world’s oldest annual marathon, and that’s why the tragic bombings of the April 15 event were so devastating—not just to Bostonians, but across the globe. Grand Circle Corporation has a long history with the Boston Marathon. Every year, associates represent us in the race, engaging their colleagues here as they raise funds for charity.

My first thought was about whether the Boston associates who volunteer at the event, and our two runners participating—Umberto, and Kara O'Toole, who works in Boston as our Senior Vice President of Traveler Support and Operations—were OK. Myself and everyone else at Grand Circle felt such relief when we heard that our associates were unharmed. I’d like to personally thank all of our travelers who reached out to us in Boston via email, letters, and over the phones to inquire about our welfare. It means the world to me that you care. Around here there’s a phrase that we’ve started to use, and I truly believe it: “Boston Strong.” Although the physical and (for many people) emotional effects won’t heal immediately, there is a sense of determination here to concentrate on the positive. It’s the spirit with which we entered the race, and there is always such a sense of excitement and camaraderie leading up to it—and not just in the training.

Kara O'Toole

Many runners collect for charities, and both Kara and Umberto were running for the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, a world-respected facility located in Boston that provides cutting-edge pediatric and adult treatments and researches cures. Here in our Boston office, our annual Kakes for Kara event is something we all look forward to, as associates bake, donate, and auction off cakes to raise money for Dana Farber. Some of the most impressive cakes earn as much as $250 each for cancer research!

While Kara and Umberto’s goal was to raise $15,000 for sick children and adults, they had yet another goal after April 15: to contribute to The One Fund, too. “I had a challenge to beat my personal best (time) on the distance, and I promised to donate an additional $500 (to Dana Farber) in case of success,” said Umberto. Although he did not end up meeting his goal, he donated an additional $500 anyway to The One Fund. “I have also decided I will be running the 2014 Boston Marathon, no matter what! I owe this to Boston, I owe this to Dana Farber, and myself.” Grand Circle Foundation has also pledged $50,000 to The One Fund, a non-profit set up to aid bombing victims and their families.

I’m so proud of Umberto and Kara—and of Bostonians, and the world—for stepping up to help out in our time of need and healing. Your thoughts, prayers, and goals to triumph over tragedy help us to remain “Boston Strong.”