Monday, April 04, 2011

Roy Santillan: St. Francis House’s Marathon Man

It has been a long and fierce winter, one with scant let up: no extended January thaw, few “promise of spring” days.

But winter is no officially over. And two sure signs that this is indeed so are a) the baseball season has begun, and b) we’re beginning to hear talk of the Boston Marathon.

Before the Marathon became such a big deal, I used to come out occasionally to watch a bit of it, mostly waiting to see Johnny Kelley pass by.  Well into his 80’s, Kelley ran Boston, which he’d won a couple of times. He was also an Olympian (Berlin 1936). Johnny Kelley died a few years back – at the age of 97.

These days my contact with the Marathon is noting (and immediately forgetting) the names of the winners; checking out whether the runners I know managed to finish; and watching as gaunt, exhausted finishers roam around the ‘hood showing off their medallions and sporting silver mylar blankets that make them look like baked potatoes.

This year, however, I have more of a reason to pay attention.

That’s because Roy Santillan’s running.

I haven’t met Roy yet, but he’s part of the St. Francis House family, and so am I. (I’m a long-standing member of the board, and an off-and-on volunteer.)

Roy came to St. Francis House – which has been helping Boston’s poor and homeless men and women “reclaim their dignity and rebuild their lives” for over 25 years – when he was down on his luck.

Like many of our guests, Roy had a record and a history of alcohol abuse – and more than his share of bad luck. When he landed in Boston (from Mexico, by way of a number of years in Chicago), he was sober and looking for a new start.

His big welcome to Boston? Someone stole his bag while he was sleeping in the train station – and with it his Social Security and green cards.

But someone else pointed him to St. Francis House, where he found a place where he could come in from the cold, have a warm meal, take a shower, see a doctor, and get help getting his documentation problem taken care of.

Roy also found First Step, which helps St. Francis House’ guests start thinking about getting back into the work-world. That led to his taking part in the Moving Ahead Program (MAP) – an intensive, 14 week course that really gets folks moving head with their lives. I try to get to a couple of Mroy_stretching_216047AP graduations each year. All of the grads have the opportunity to speak about their journeys and their hopes. (Do not attend without your hanky.)

Anyway, Roy is a MAP grad, now studying for his B.A. at UMass-Boston, and living in Next Step, St. Francis House’s residential program. 

Roy’s also a runner, and, come April 18th, he’ll be running Boston on behalf of St. Francis House.

The Friends of Frank (FOF), - “Frank” is street lingo for St. Francis House - a wonderful organization made up of St. Francis House’s younger supporters (which, alas, includes me out), is backing Roy and our other runner, Mike Palliola. Mike is related to St. Francis House through Ultimate Bootcamp (which is exactly what the name implies and, thus, includes me out, as well). Ultimate Bootcamp sponsors an annual Thanksgiving Day fundraiser for St. Francis House.

FOF is holding an event on April 13th, and is hoping to raise the $5,200 that Roy and Mike must raise as part of an initiative that provides non-profits with Marathon numbers (which are hard to come by).  The money goes to St. Francis House. Given the economy, and the increase that Frank’s is seeing in demand for its services, we can absolutely use it.

So, if you’re feeling spring-ish, or Marathon-ish, or just generous in general, you might want to make a donation towards that  $5,200 goal. (Tell them Maureen Rogers from Pink Slip sent you.)

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