going the distance to help children who are grieving

“If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.” — Martin Luther King, Jr.

For the past 12 years, teams of marathon runners have come together to give back to The Children’s Room (TCR), an organization that has helped them and their families find paths forward with hope, resilience and new senses of community. A grantee of The Parmenter Foundation, TCR is an Arlington-based nonprofit that offers free-of-charge, direct grief support services for families with children who have experienced the death of a parent or sibling.

One such marathon runner is John Shea, a math teacher at Needham High School whose wife Diane died in 2013 after a long illness. After Diane’s death, John connected with the peer support program at TCR to help himself and his two young daughters navigate and cope with their grief. John was so grateful for the wonderful community he found that he wanted to give back by running the Boston Marathon as part of its “Miles & Memories’’ team. He has now run the Marathon five times in honor of his wife and in support of TCR, including the virtual marathon in 2020. Each year, his daughters were there cheering him on and hosting water stations. John says, “The first year I ran, I thought it would be a ‘one and done’ thing, but I kept wanting to do more to support this inspiring organization. Our experience at The Children’s Room continues to have a lasting impact on our lives as a family and I am so grateful for that.”

Further pumping up TCR’s teams of marathon runners are volunteer coaches Crissy Straub and Malinda Dublin, co-founders of MC Coaching. Crissy and Malinda have trained marathoners, such as John Shea, for years on an entirely volunteer basis. Their support has made it possible for runners to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for TCR. In honor of their selfless dedication to preparing dozens of runners, The Parmenter Foundation proudly awarded its 17th annual Grace Johnson Volunteer Appreciation Award this year to Crissy and Malinda.

Since January 2021, The Parmenter Foundation has provided more than $275,000 in children’s bereavement grants, including a grant to The Children’s Room to provide free grief support services to families in MetroWest who have suffered a loss.


Parmenter Executive Director,
Angela Crocker, presents award to
Crissy Straub and Malinda Dublin.


John Shea runs the Boston Marathon in
support of The Children’s Room.