For many of us, summer is a time to relax and put up our feet. However, one woman is choosing to lace up her sneakers and hit the pavement in support of a worthy cause. This summer, Maya Lopuch is running five half-marathons in five months to raise money for Partners In Health. A data analyst at the Spencer Foundation in Chicago during the week, Maya is racing to raise awareness for the need that still exists in Haiti. She has already completed two races and has three more to go—her next half-marathon is on June 24.
In early June, Maya surpassed her initial goal of $5,000, a feat she managed in just four weeks. Now she’s thinking even bigger. Her new goal is to raise $10,000 by the end of the summer.
We asked Maya to tell us a bit more about her inspiration for this ambitious and impressive fundraising campaign—and her take on the best meal to eat after a run.
When and how did you first learn about Partners In Health?
Last spring a friend invited me to join him on a cycling trip across Haiti. I knew close to nothing about Haiti at the time, but I was intrigued by the adventure and agreed to go.
Two weeks before our trip, I picked up Tracy Kidder’s Mountains Beyond Mountains to learn more about what I was getting myself into. I finished the book in one sitting.
Reading about the history of Partners In Health gave me a much stronger appreciation for the culture of Haiti, and it made my cycling trip all the more fascinating. We never made it to Cange, but my time in Haiti helped me understand why an organization like Partners In Health is so admired and beloved.
What motivated you to fundraise for Partners In Health?
I left Haiti knowing that I wanted to join the humanitarian effort there, but I wasn’t yet sure how. I then read an interview with Paul Farmer about the cholera epidemic that inspired me towards action.
Dr. Farmer pointed out that volunteers at the New York Marathon could distribute thousands of gallons of water to runners but the international community could not provide the same to the Haitians most in need.
Being a runner myself, this was an image that stuck with me. In races there are always cheering volunteers eager to hand water to the runners, even though much of it splashes to the ground.
I decided to channel my own love of running into a fundraising campaign that would help distribute critical supplies in Haiti. Fundraising has been a way for me to maintain a connection with Haiti and pay homage to those who support me during races.
What keeps you going at mile 12?
The fundraising is motivation enough! I’ve been astounded by the generosity of my friends and colleagues throughout this campaign. I thought I was being ambitious when I set a goal of $5,000 over five months, but I’ve already surpassed that.
It’s truly inspiring to see how much goodwill and enthusiasm there is in my community, and I am endlessly grateful. If all it takes is a few half-marathons to mobilize that, then I have no doubt that every step I take is worth it.
What do you crave most after a half-marathon?
French fries and a beer. Was there ever a more perfect meal?