HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass. (4/10/14)--For most participants, a marathon is an individual event, a test of an athlete's will against distance and time. For Ray Phillips and Andy Martin, the Boston Marathon represents an inspiring partnership that is no less a test of strength and perseverance.
|Andy Martin Jr., left, and Ray Phillips have been a Boston Marathon team for 15 years as part of the Credit Unions Kids at Heart program. This year, Martin will compete in the race, using a custom racing wheelchair purchased by Hanscom FCU, Hanscom Air Force Base, Mass. (Massachusetts Credit Union League photo)|
For the 15th year, Ray Phillips, a board member at $1 billion-asset Hanscom FCU, Hanscom Air Force Base, Mass., and Andy Martin, who was born with spina bifida and is paralyzed below the waist, will take part in the annual spring race to support the "Credit Unions of Massachusetts Have Kids at Heart" program activities to raise funds on behalf of Boston Children's Hospital (Daily CU Scan April 7).
The Credit Unions Kids at Heart program is a group of credit unions that collectively raise funds for the hospital and other organizations benefitting children. Each year, runners sponsored by credit unions are paired with a patient-partner child receiving care at Boston Children's Hospital. Runners and patient partners often build lifelong relationships that extend beyond the marathon season.
In 2000, Phillips and Martin, who was then 4 years old, teamed up for the first time after meeting at the Children's Hospital marathon team kickoff reception.
"I left the reception feeling quite inspired by Andy's positive spirit, and I decided that since he would be carrying me during the race via his inspiration, it would only be appropriate to reciprocate and carry him part of the way so we could cross the finish line together," Phillips wrote on the Team Andy website. "So we planned on meeting at the final turn in the marathon, at the corner of Hereford and Boylston Streets, 600 yards from the finish line."
After the race, Phillips and Martin promised each other that they would cross the finish line at every Boston Marathon together until Martin could take part in the race as a wheelchair entrant, when he turned 18, in 2014. Both of them, true to their word, returned for the next 14 years.
This year, Martin will compete in the race, using a custom racing wheelchair purchased by Hanscom FCU.
Martin's preparation for the race required a real commitment, Phillips said.
"Andy's commitment to fulfilling his goal has become stronger and stronger," Phillips wrote. "It has been a long journey, and Andy has overcome a number of obstacles and setbacks along the way, but he has shown steadfast determination in pursuit of achieving his lifelong goal."
After completing two marathons last fall, the Boston Athletic Association approved Martin as a wheelchair entrant in the 2014 Boston Marathon.
Phillips wrote that he's "just happy to be along for the ride."
"When Andy completes the Boston Marathon in April 2014, it will not just be the completion of a 15-year journey that started for him as a 4-year-old in 2000," he continued. "I expect that the achievement of his lifelong marathon goal will act as a springboard in providing Andy with the self-confidence to aim high in pursuing and achieving future goals along his path."