Students in Service and Leadership at Harvard

What is Stepping Strong?

On April 15, 2013...

My friend, Gillian Reny, was at the finish line of the 117th Boston Marathon, when her life changed forever, and what started out as a beautiful Marathon Monday turned into tragedy for so many. Gillian was cheering on her sister, Danielle, when she became one of the hundreds of innocent bystanders who were critically injured in the 2013 Marathon Bombings. She was rushed to Brigham and Women's Hospital by courageous first responders and bystanders, where dedicated doctors and nurses worked to save her life--and her legs. In the wake of such tragedy, Gillian persisted through dozens of limb-saving surgeries and physical therapy sessions. Luckily, Gillian is on the road to recovery, but in the process, she and her family discovered that trauma care is extremely underfunded and and unrecognized. So, as a thank you to the hospital that saved her life, and as a mission to raise money for trauma patients like Gillian, the Reny family created the Stepping Strong Center for Trauma Innovation. Almost five years later, they have raised over $11 million for trauma patients and opened up a center at the Brigham. Below is a video from Brigham and Women's that captures Gillian's story and the way the Reny family "turns tragedy into hope."

In February 2014...

The Reny family officially established the Gillian Reny Stepping Strong Fund, which started a now five-year movement to raise money for trauma patients. A special part of the fund, that raises hundreds of thousands of dollars each year, is the Marathon Team, filled with dedicated members who not only fundraise for the center, but run 26.2 miles in honor of Gillian and other trauma patients. The first Stepping Strong team to run the Boston Marathon was in 2014, just one short year after the bombings. Since then, Stepping Strong has been a strong presence on Marathon Monday, each year growing bigger, raising more money, and spreading more awareness for Gillian's story and for the hundreds of other stories that are too similar to Gillian's. Below is a photo of the 2017 B.A.A 5k team, who runs the Saturday before Marathon Monday to kick off the weekend!

Nearly five years later...

Despite facing critical and life-threatening injuries in 2013, Gillian was able to graduate high school and go on to attend the University of Pennsylvania. Just four years later, in 2017, Gillian walked alongside her friends at graduation--something that was anything less than guaranteed after the bombings. She now works in New York City, and remains close to the organization and to other trauma patients. As for Stepping Strong, the team runs several races including the B.A.A 5k on marathon weekend, the B.A.A. 10k, and the Falmouth Road Race. The 2018 Marathon, to be held on Monday, April 16, 2018, marks the five year anniversary of the marathon bombings, and a huge milestone for Stepping Strong. After months of fundraising and hundreds of miles of training, over 100 runners will gear up to take on 26.2 miles in honor of Gillian. 

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