They don’t train, themselves, but they ask how your training is going. They don’t run through the pain, but they do hand you water and help you push through it. They don’t cross the finish line, but they do congratulate you and place a Bank of America Chicago Marathon medal around your neck. They’re the hundreds of volunteers who support the thousands of runners in this iconic Chicago event. Among them are nearly 400 employees from Bank of America.
“It’s a very special feeling”
Vito Abbate is entering his fourth year as a marathon volunteer. The senior vice president in Global Treasury Solutions for Bank of America Merrill Lynch has turned the event into a family affair. He, his wife and his daughter are among the volunteers who award medals to runners as they cross the finish line. “When you can put that medal around their neck and say, ‘Congratulations, you did it! I’m very proud of you,’ and see their face light up, even before they’ve seen their family, it’s a very special feeling for them and for us,” said Abbate.
“I got hooked”
Blanca Becerra’s first volunteer experience came unexpectedly, when marathon runners entered her old Pilsen neighborhood. “I walked out of church and, to my surprise, there were runners and mariachi bands playing and fans screaming and waving,” said the administrative assistant in Global Corporate & Investment Banking with Bank of America Merrill Lynch. “I’ve never been more proud to be a Mexican-American and a Chicagoan. People who don’t even know the runners are simply there to cheer them on, while showcasing our heritage and neighborhood. I got hooked.” Becerra is gearing up for her third year as a volunteer at the VIP Runner Tent.
Abbate and Becerra both treasure the connections to the marathon they experience from their volunteer posts. They recall with excitement their fondest memories of the day. Abbate has seen runners help other runners who have fallen – “because they would want someone to do that for them, even if it slows down their personal time” – marriage proposals at the finish line and expectant mothers narrowly completing the race. Becerra gets chills at the sight of neighborhoods coming out in full force to support the city’s marathoners. She loves when strangers celebrate with each other – and with her. From runners to spectators to volunteers, everyone wins on race day.