BURRILLVILLE – Candice Burroughs has run in several 5Ks, 10-milers, half-marathons and other running competitions, at one point even completing three big races within five weeks of each other.
But she says training to run the Boston Marathon while fundraising for the Heather Abbott Foundation has been the most rewarding experience of her life to date.
Burroughs, a Burrillville native who now lives with her family in Harrisville, was one of 11 runners chosen from applicants across the country to participate with Team Limb-it-less on behalf of the foundation, raising funds to provide custom prostheses for limb loss victims of traumatic circumstances.
Abbott was a spectator at the Boston Marathon in 2013, and was hit when two bombs exploded in the crowd. Her injuries caused her to have her left leg amputated, and she has since formed the foundation to help other amputees.
Burroughs was born and raised in Burrillville, and says she first began running after returning to town from a seven year stint in Texas in 2017. Burroughs first took part in a 10-mile-a-week running challenge with town-based fitness guru Samantha Tobin.
“I was hooked,” Burroughs said. “I had this runner’s high. I just couldn’t stop.”
Burroughs completed her first 5K in 2018, and then moved on to the New England 10-miler series, held Newport, as well as Portland, Maine and Stowe, Vt. Her first half marathon was later on Horseneck Beach.
But in 2019, the new runner’s training had a major setback after she hit her head in a cavern on a family vacation. Burroughs jumped on a rollercoaster just after the accident, and found herself temporarily blinded.
“All of a sudden I just couldn’t see anything,” she said. “I lost my eyesight for five seconds.”
Burroughs had suffered a Grade 2 Concussion and would take nine months to recover. Then COVID-19 set plans back another year.
She jumped back into her running shoes in 2021 with the Rhode Master Series, followed by a few smaller races. And she completed her first marathon in Chicago last October.
Burroughs notes that she wasn’t sure if she wanted to participate in the Boston Marathon – scheduled for Monday, April 18 – until she stumbled upon Abbott’s story while researching bombing history.
“I had just had a friend of mine from my town who became an amputee this year,” she said.
Burroughs says she was inspired to run the race in honor of her friend Kendra D’ Allesandro of Burrillville, who recently lost her leg in a tragic accident.
“That all tied in to why I wanted to fundraise and run for this charity in particular,” she told NRI NOW.
Burroughs filled out the HAF application, which asked for both running history and personal questions regarding ties to the cause.
“They want to know what it is that drives your heart,” she said. “They pick you based on your reasoning and your background.”
Burroughs set her fundraising goal at $10,000 – and last Thursday, she held her final fundraising event at Bravo Brewing Company in Pascoag, raffling off items donated by 15 local businesses and raising $1,200, putting the racer’s goal well within reach.
But it hasn’t been easy.
“Qualifying itself is a lot of work,” Burroughs said. “When you do charity, work you have to split yourself in two.”
Still, she says, she’s been amazed by the generosity of the community.
“I didn’t realize how much of an impact it would have,” Burroughs said. “It’s just been awesome.”
In just over a week, she’ll join the other members of Team Limb-it-less including three runners from Massachusetts; Todd Foy of Brighton, Garrett Tingle of Somerville and Garrett Tingle of Cambridge; as well as Jessica Averbuch of Nashville, Tenn.; Sarah Buckley of Hampstead, N.H.; Amy Dowe of Tucson, Ariz.; Watson McBride of Sandy Springs, S.C., Laurie Rice of Franklin, Tenn.; Lina Saliba of McLean, Va.; and Jonathan Strongsmith of Charlottesville, Va.
“It was hard to choose from the dozens of applications we received who from all over the country, all passionately wanting to support our cause by running the marathon on our behalf,” said Abbott in a release on the running team. “After the challenges Covid presented these last two years, we are counting down the days to returning to Boylston Street on Patriots Day to cheer on our team, as they cross the finish line.”
Among the prosthesis grants from the Heather Abbott Foundation is 15-year old Lydia Stalaboin of Wakefield, who was born with a rare congenital vascular disorder. Pain caused Stalaboin to make the difficult decision to amputate it at age 11.
Now a high school sophomore, Stalaboin participates in gymnastics and volleyball, refusing to let limb loss limit her activity. HAF provided her with a prothesis specially designed for running.
“I’m giving running a try so I can push harder and overcome my fears, and I want to show that to other people,” she said.
The foundation will host a marathon watch party at Rochambeau at 900 Boylston St. from 11:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tickets are on sale at www.HAF2020.EventBrite.com.
For Burroughs, participating and raising funds for a cause so close to home has been the experience of a lifetime.
“I’m in awe of everything that’s been happening,” she said. “The community has just been nothing short of amazing. This has been the most rewarding and challenging thing I have ever done.”
To donate and help Burroughs reach her goal visit https://www.givengain.com/ap/candice-burroughs-raising-funds-for-the-heather-abbott-foundation/
Editor’s note: The above article originally stated that Burrough’s had already raised $8,500. We apologize for the error.