The ING New York City Marathon doesn’t kick off until Nov. 7, but Bonnie Knecht of Middletown already feels like winner.
Along with three other New Jerseyans and 60 runners from around the country and the world, she will be running on behalf of The Blue Card, a 76-year old organization that provides aid to destitute Holocaust survivors in the United States.
Each of the runners has pledged to raise at least $2,500 for the charity, or just a little under $100 a mile for each of the race’s 26.2 miles.
“The thing I love now is that it’s win-win,” said Knecht, 50, who has already run two marathons. “While I get to accomplish a personal goal, I’m also raising money.”
Knecht hadn’t heard of The Blue Card before her marathon effort.
“Now I’m hooked. It’s become my pet project. People forget there are still survivors left who are living in poverty,” she said.
Knecht did not lose family members in the Holocaust: Her grandparents arrived safely in the United States in the 1920s and ’30s. And yet, as a Jew, she said, “it’s important to me personally; it’s part of my fiber.”
This year, her husband, Michael, threw her a surprise 50th birthday party. But instead of bringing gifts, guests were asked to make a donation to the Blue Card.
The Blue Card is one of dozens of charities represented in the marathon. Non-elite runners who don’t get a coveted spot in the race through the annual lottery are able to run if they join a charity team and raise $2,500. More than 7,000 runners follow this route to the starting line every year.
Other Jewish philanthropies fielding “teams” include Ohel Children’s Home and Family Service, the Friendship Circle, and the Denver-based National Jewish Health hospital, but the Blue Card is the only one in the marathon’s “gold/silver/and bronze categories,” which earns it more space on the website.
Knecht ran for the Central Park Conservancy for her first marathon, but wanted to find something with more personal meaning the second time around. The Blue Card serves 1,600-1,700 people each year.
Other NJ marathoners running for the Blue Card include Adam Cohen of Tenafly, Steve Weiss of South Orange, and Michael LaSusa of Chester.
At the finish line to cheer on Knecht will be her husband and two children.
“I’m looking forward to seeing that finish line,” said Knecht. “I hope my knees and other body parts hold up!
“Running the New York City Marathon is just amazing. The crowds, the noise. At any point there could be 20,000 runners behind you. And everyone is cheering you on, screaming your name out. And then, crossing the finish line, and grabbing that medal….”