More than 1,500 people gathered for a 5-kilometer marathon in late June of 2016. Most – and likely all – learned about a vibrant, 11-year-old girl named Katie who lost a battle with Leukemia in 2008.
Despite her short life, the daughter of a Long Island funeral director continues to impact her community and the lives of other children facing serious illness thanks to a foundation her family created in her honor.
Katie’s parents, Michael and Jeanne McBride, established the Katie McBride Foundation that’s raised more than $146,000 for important causes.
Katie’s father, Funeral Director Michael McBride, said the project doesn’t necessarily worsen the grief of losing his daughter.
Instead, it helps him channel grief towards positive action in honor of Katie while keeping her memory alive.
“It helps us get through our day,” said McBride, a retired NYPD detective who serves as vice-president of the New Hyde Park Funeral Home in Long Island.
It’s held on the Sunday after Father’s Day each year, and brings hundreds of people to the New Hyde Park community.
A total of 528 athletes completed the 5 kilometer race in 2016 – 300 walkers joined in. They added to the presence of dozens of children, family members, businesses and others who take part in a community barbecue and gathering that day.
The event includes a 2-mile walk and a children’s fun run, so all who want to take part can participate.
They hold an awards presentation and host live music at a celebration after the race.
“It’s gotten so big, it’s taken on a life of its own,” McBride said.
“It’s really a community event. It goes beyond Katie and the McBride family, it’s the whole community coming together and spending the morning together,” he said.
The event enables local businesses to get some exposure through sponsorships, too.
The biggest beneficiary of the marathon fundraiser is the Ronald McDonald House of Long Island – an institution that works to ease the difficult days parents face when their children are undergoing hospital treatment.
It’s a place McBride and his family found essential for getting through the long months of hospitalization and treatment they accompanied Katie through.
Katie’s hospital is not far from the Ronald McDonald House, which welcomed family members like Katie’s mother, Jeanne, to get something to eat and wash up between long days staying with Katie in the hospital, McBride said.
“Our relationship with the McBride family embodies our mission of providing a home-away-from-home for families of seriously ill children,” said Matt Campo, President of the Ronald McDonald House of Long Island.
“For years, they have supported our organization and families that are experiencing what they experienced firsthand by creating awareness and fundraising through an annual event in loving memory of Katie, Katie’s Run,” Campo said.
Through the Katie’s Run event, support for the Ronald McDonald House of Long Island reached $100,000 in 2016.
A temporary home for family members of seriously ill children, the Ronald McDonald House of Long Island in 2014 dedicated a new exercise room – the Katie McBride Fitness Center – giving family members a place to work out while they’re there.
“For 30 years, the Ronald McDonald House of Long Island has had the privilege of providing a warm, comfortable place to rest and recuperate, a necessity when communicating with a child’s medical team and adhering to complicated treatment plans,” Campo said.
“As an organization that is sustained by philanthropy, we continue to be grateful for the generosity and compassion the McBride Foundation, their supporters and our community provide to help us keep families close.”
The Katie McBride Foundation’s impact extends well beyond helping families and children facing serious illness.
The Foundation holds a music production - Katie’s Koncert. It drew over 500 people during its fourth year in 2015, raising money for another charitable endeavor – the Katie McBride Memorial Scholarship Fund.
Each year, the Foundation provides $5,500 in scholarships to five local students heading to college – selecting among applicants those who show strong commitment to serving their communities.
Though she passed away several years ago, Michael McBride said the efforts of the foundation work to keep Katie’s memory alive.
“As time goes on, people forget. Of course, we didn’t forget Katie. For other folks, Katie’s memory was starting to fade into a distant memory, and that got me nervous. It keeps her memory and her name alive,” McBride said.