Running through Central Park toward the finish line in the New York City Marathon is an emotional experience for many runners, but it carried special significance for Riverdale Country School teacher Jay Crosby.
Not only was Mr. Crosby finishing the 26.2 mile course that traverses the five boroughs, he was doing it for his father, and for orphans in Botswana.
“That last mile was very difficult to get through. Having to fight through emotions and tears and I found myself struggling to breathe, I found myself choking,” he said.
Mr. Crosby ran to raise money for the Somarela Fund, which he founded to advance humanitarian work in Southern Africa by creating a cultural exchange between students at Riverdale Country School, where he works, and youth from Africa.
The organization was created in memory of his father, J. Player Crosby, a lifelong humanitarian who suffered a heart attack while flying in his private plane from Botswana in 2003. He crashed near his home in Massachusetts.
Mr. Crosby, a history teacher for 10 years at Riverdale Country School, has kept his father’s humanitarian tradition alive. For the last four years, he has brought students from Riverdale to Botswana to work at Bana Ba Letsatsi, a center he created along with a Botswanan woman in Maun. The center shelters more than 300 children who have been sexually abused, suffer from drug or alcohol addiction, are orphaned or homeless. Children are fed, clothed, given basic health care and enrolled in schools.
On Sunday, Mr. Crosby and 15 other runners, all wearing Somarela jerseys, finished the ING New York City Marathon having raised more than $40,000. Three of the 15 were flown to New York from Botswana, including 20-year-old twins, whom Mr. Crosby met at the Bana Ba Letsatsi center. Mr. Crosby said donations continued to pour in on Monday.
“These people are helping realize this dream that my father started. It blows me away that people want to support it.”
Riverdale students have helped reconstruct an enclosed garden, enlarge a playground, install a volleyball court and paint a mural at the center in Africa over the last four years. More than 40 students have signed up to travel there next June.
While in town for the marathon, Mr. Crosby brought the twins, Itsing and Tirafalo Batsholelwang, and one of the Bana Ba Letsatsi center’s instructors, Paul Moleseng, to the school, where they spoke to students at an assembly.
With international support and goals, Mr. Crosby ran the first half of the marathon with his two brothers and sister, adding to the weight of running to further his father’s mission, he said. He finished with a time of 4:45, shaving more than an hour off his last year’s time. This is his third marathon but, he said, was the toughest by far.