Featured Charities

Published On: July 15th, 2019Categories: Uncategorized

2020 Features:

Friends of the Rouge


To restore, protect, and enhance the Rouge River watershed through stewardship, education, and collaboration.

Length of Operation:

34 years.

How long have you been partnering with the marathon?

2020 will be our fifth year participating.

Most heartwarming moment:

People gathering together to run for something greater than themselves.

What is the most interesting story you have from a past race weekend?

The first year our executive director “ran” the 5K seven months pregnant with her two year old in a stroller, husband and parents together.  She wants everyone to know that she “runs this race for [her] children AND the Rouge River – because [she] sees the health of our backyard waterways directly linked to [her] children’s health and the health of world [she] hopes they can live in someday.

What do you want others to know?

Every action we take today will directly affect a future yet unseen.  Let’s make sure it’s one we can be proud to make come true.

Why did you choose to partner with the Detroit Free Press/TCF Bank Marathon?

Opportunity to partner with a well-respected event, to offer people a unique way to “give back” to the Rouge and engage with our mission, while at the same time celebrating as a collective community the incredible resiliency of Detroit (economic, social and environmental) in the heart of the city.

How can people help your charity?

Volunteer, become a member, be a “Friend” of the Rouge everyday with choices and actions that positively impact the Rouge River and all water wherever you call home!

2019 Features:




To reduce animal homelessness and needless euthanasia by making high quality, affordable spay/neuter services available to our community.

Length of Operation:

Almost 8 years.

How long have you been partnering with the marathon?

This is our first year!

Most heartwarming moment:

Let’s see…there are so many heartwarming stories.  It’s very gratifying to see the relief on many people’s faces when they realize that they can afford to get their beloved animals spayed and neutered when most full-service veterinarians are out of their price range.   We love working with people who do trap-neuter-return of feral/stray cats, which is a non-lethal way of controlling overpopulation of outside cats without owners.  People want to help these cats, but typically can’t (or won’t) spend a lot of money to do so.  We make it incredibly affordable to get these cats sterilized and control the population.

What are you most proud of? 

The thing I’m most proud of recently is that one of our veterinarians and our lead veterinary assistant spent a week in Puerto Rico in February as part of a multi-organization relief team working to spay thousands of animals in post-Hurricane Maria Puerto Rico.  They volunteered their time, worked in difficult conditions, and as part of this coalition made a huge difference for the animals and families in Puerto Rico.

What do you want others to know?

Spaying and neutering saves lives by preventing the birth of unwanted litters of puppies and kittens.  The PAWS Clinic has performed over 55,000 spay or neuter procedures at an extremely affordable price, and we’re seeing a drop in local animal shelter intake and euthanasia rates in our community.

Why did you choose to partner with the Detroit Free Press/TCF Bank Marathon?

More exposure for The PAWS Clinic and a chance to engage a group of active, energetic people in our mission.

What’s your charity’s favorite event at marathon weekend? 

This is our first year as a charity partner so we’re excited to try everything! The marathon staff has been wonderful to work with, and so helpful.

How can people help your charity?

Spay or neuter your pets!


Love Runs


Love Runs exists to end human trafficking in metro Detroit through fundraising and building awareness.  Love Runs has raised over $1.5Million in four years with all proceeds going to local and established partner organizations fighting to prevent human trafficking and to rescue and restore human trafficking victims and survivors. Each of our runners and walkers challenge themselves to raise $1440 which represents the number of minutes every day that human trafficking victims remain enslaved and the same number of minutes that each one of us can celebrate freedom.

Length of Operation: 5 years.

Most Heartwarming moment:

It was very special the first time a human trafficking survivor joined our team and broke through her own chains by completing her first race. She reminded and continues to remind many of us why we run.

What are you most proud of?

We are most proud of the change being made in our community due to our efforts. Every dollar stays here in Metro Detroit and is used for saving, healing, restoring and rebuilding the lives of victims as well as working to address the demand side of the human trafficking problem. This team exists to bring the love of God into darkness. What started with a few broken hearts has transformed into hundreds of people working to bring the oppression of human trafficking to an end in Metro Detroit. Furthermore, it’s not just human trafficking victims and survivors who are being impacted.  But, our runners, walkers and all the people surrounding them are also being significantly impacted.

What do you want others to know?

We would love for people to know that this is not just a normal running club.  The spirit of this team empowers people to do big things. Forget couch to 5k – we’ve got broken to marathon. We have team members who boldly commit to completing a full marathon with no prior experience with the encouragement from our community of runners and walkers. We’ve got seasoned marathoners choosing to run a mile or 5k to allow themselves to help team members with their hard training or devote more time to furthering the work of Love Runs. We have victims who become victors and silenced voices finally being able to shout for freedom. This group – brought together from every walk of life – is committed to stopping the modern-day slavery movement in the streets of metro Detroit. We walk and run for the freedom of others and through God find our own freedom along the way.

Why did you choose to partner with the Detroit Free Press/TCF Bank Marathon?

There are many reasons why Love Runs partners with the Marathon.  The first simple reason is marathon leadership does an incredible job planning and carrying out race weekend which enables us to focus our efforts on our cause. We also partner with the Marathon because our cause is specifically focused on ending human trafficking in this area.  There are so many in Metro Detroit who don’t realize that human trafficking is happening all around them, in their places of work and in their communities.  We pray that, as a team, we are sparking an interest in others to know more about this problem here in our home town.

What’s your charity’s favorite event at marathon weekend?

Our favorite event is to experience everything that happens on Saturday. From the 5k to the expo, it’s a fantastic day for everyone. Many of our new members on the team choose the 5k and it’s amazing to cheer them on. To see them succeed in something many of them never thought they could do is priceless. And after the morning races, we get to experience the Expo which is a great place to connect with each other and the other charities. Plus, where else will you find amazing running meme signs featuring Chuck Norris, tortoises, and running humor other than at the Love Runs booth! 🤪

How can people help your charity?

There are several ways that someone can help Love Runs efforts.  The best way to help is to simply join us as a runner or walker.  We welcome all skill levels and people of all backgrounds and beliefs.  The next best way is to volunteer with team, through activities such as handing out water during our team training runs held every Saturday throughout the season or by working a dedicated Love Runs volunteer station on marathon day. Finally, anyone is welcome to donate to any one of our runners and walkers via their respective CrowdRise fundraising pages found below: https://www.crowdrise.com/o/en/campaign/loveruns2019

Marathon Mission

What is Marathon Mission’s mission?

The purpose of Marathon Mission (MM) is for walkers and runners of all ages and abilities to lace up our shoes for worthy faith and community-based causes. We are an umbrella non-profit and seek to encourage others to use their strength to help other existing, compassionate causes (such as food pantries, orphanages, missionaries, etc. For a more complete list, visit www.marathonmission.net ). We use our heart, lungs and muscles for a reason beyond ourselves, and embrace the theme, “Let us run with perseverance, the race marked out for us (Hebrews 12:1,2).” Along the way, our Marathon Mission team reaps the genuine and practical fitness benefits of training and serving. Marathon Mission combines fitness and faith every step of the way.

How long has your charity been operating?

The first Marathon Mission event occurred with one lone runner in the Detroit Free Press Marathon in 2003. The next year, runners and walkers of various ages and abilities joined in our Marathon Mission efforts in Detroit to raise support and awareness for other charitable efforts.

How long have you been partnering with the Detroit Free Press/TCF Bank Marathon?

Marathon Mission is one of the oldest charity partners still in the running with the Detroit Free Press Marathon. We began in Detroit in 2003, and became an official charity partner in 2004.

How can people help your charity?

We would love to have people walk or jog with our Marathon Mission Team in the Detroit Free Press/TCF Bank Marathon. If they have not registered for the race yet, they can indicate Marathon Mission as their Charity Partner when registering online. If they have registered already and did not indicate Marathon Mission but want to connect with us, they can send us a short email at lisa@marathonmission.net. Financial donations can be made through our Marathon Mission Crowdrise Fundraising page.

Why do you choose to partner with Detroit Free Press/TCF Bank Marathon?

Detroit is the hub of our Marathon Mission wheel. Many of our participants are from the greater Detroit and Michigan areas. The Detroit Free Press/TCF Bank Marathon has received numerous accolades, (such as the best Marathon in the State of Michigan by RaceRaves), and boasts spectacular sunrise views from the Ambassador Bridge. Running the famous “underwater mile” between Windsor and Detroit is also a one-of-a-kind experience. We also love the Motown feel, along with the deep sense of community and hospitality in Detroit. On another practical note, since our Marathon Mission team is made up of a variety of participants with differing ages and abilities, we really appreciate the selection of race distances to choose from during race weekend.

Marathon Mission’s Featured Runner: Michael Martin

Michael started running in the spring of 2012 after being diagnosed with Fibromyalgia in November of 2011. After doing some research, he found that staying active is key to combating the illness. Martin adds, “I’m not your typical sufferer so being young and athletic still, I wasn’t going to let my health get away from me. Having Lisa and her family pastoring our church, it was natural to take some advice from them and start running. ”

In October of 2012 Martin ran his first 5k and it was one of our races! From there he worked up to a half marathon in 2013 and then a full marathon in 2014. Since then Martin has participated in several races.

He told us, “I was able to do 3 halves in 2015 along with a Tough Mudder with some friends. In 2016, I had a good friend talk me into doing the marathon again with a Ragnar Relay as a warmup. That was different. A fun different — but that marathon I wanted to hit a sub 4:30 because I hit the wall HARD (which I never did in training) in my first marathon and came in at 4:38. My second one, I even had a stretch goal of 4:20 and ended up with 4:16 because I finally learned my body. I felt great after that race, but nothing compared to that first one.”

As far as weekly miles, Martin is training for the International Half. He does about 15-18 miles a week right now.

Martin has been running with the Marathon Mission team since he first started running and now he is a board member as well.

As far as training advice goes, the best thing Martin can say is that you should focus on not being enamored with those big runs. It takes a while to  build up to that distance and you have to listen to your body! Martin adds, “I couldn’t run a mile nonstop without walking for almost 4 months when I started. Then I learned HOW to run and that changed everything. The only way to learn your body is by running. I didn’t just wake up one day and throw some shoes on and went for a 12-miler. It took well over a year and half to run 12. Don’t be intimidated to start and be scared to do a race. There’s sooooo many people of all shapes and sizes and speeds and paces who are all out there just trying to be the best version of themselves. Your only goal is the goal you set for yourself. It’s truly that simple.”

Canadian Mental Health Association

What is the Canadian Mental Health Association’s mission?

CMHA Windsor-Essex is the lead provider and advocate of community mental health and addiction services integrated with primary care.

How long has your charity been operating? Since 1971

How long have you been partnering with the Detroit Free Press/TCF Bank Marathon? Since 2011

Why do you choose to partner with Detroit Free Press/TCF Bank Marathon?

Exercise and enjoying nature are two of the best things one can do to care for their mental health. The partnership with the Detroit Free Press/TCF Bank Marathon allows individuals to set a goal and be part of an amazing experience. It also provides an opportunity to highlight CMHA Windsor-Essex and the importance of mental health for all of us.

How can people help your charity?

We rely on fundraising dollars for our Bereavement program, Client Assistance Fund and the Sole Focus Project that supports the delivery of mental health education, training and awareness throughout the community. These programs are not fully funded by the government and as such they rely on funds raised through fundraising events and initiatives like the marathon. CMHA Windsor-Essex is also always looking for volunteers to assist in various capacities. Visit www.windsoressex.cmha.ca for more information.

 Runner Highlight: Brett Chaborek

How long have you been a runner for?

I ran short track sprints in grade school, 100m, 200m, 4×100 relay, as well as cross country. However, after entering high school, anxiety got the best of me and I stopped entering any sort of team sports. I picked up running again in 2013, and have been going since.

Why did you start running?

I started running again in 2013 when, at that time, I found myself to be at the heaviest weight I’d been at in my life. That, and many other factors, internal and external, led to me struggling through mental health issues, namely general anxiety and some aspects of depression. I felt like I was at my lowest point, and I didn’t know where to go from there. When I look back, I can’t point to a specific moment where I decided to make a change, all I can remember is that it happened.

What is your running story?

When I finally decided to start running again, a friend and I got together and hit the streets. I hadn’t run regularly since I was in grade school, and that was immediately evident. After just one block, I was doubled over gasping for breath. It would have been very easy to give up at this point and turn around back to home, but we kept going. We walked the next 3 blocks, and ran another. We repeated this for about 30 minutes. I felt awful, but I felt accomplished. We went out the next weekend again, and I was able to go two blocks, and then walk another two. Then I could go three, and walk one. Over the next couple months, we kept at it, and I worked myself up to a slow 5k, I was starting to feel a lot better inside and out.

Fast forward to the end of 2014, and I ran my first half-marathon in Detroit. I ran my second half in 2017, and then my first full marathon in 2018. At the end of each of these long races, I said I’d never do it again, but within a couple weeks I was already looking for what I could register for next. All around these I’ve also competed in many local races (5k, 10k, 20k), even placing top 3 in my age group in a number of these events. If you asked me in 2013 if I saw myself completing a full marathon just 5 years later, I would have laughed. There is no way I could have envisioned myself accomplishing that in the state I was in at the time, but here we are.


5k: 21:32

Half-Marathon: 2:01:42

First Marathon: 4:43:16

How many miles do you run per week?

Anywhere from 30-60km

Why do you run for the Canadian Mental Health Association?

Mental health has played a large role throughout my family history. It is something that has had a drastic effect on my life, it’s something that I’ve struggled in silence with for many years. Until recently, I really would never find myself discussing it due to the perceived stigma that comes with talking about mental health. However, I’ve been slowly changing that, and I hope that others will be able to shake the stigma and be more open to discussing it themselves. I run for the CMHA because I believe greatly in the work that they do for our community, they play a very important role, and offer many extremely important programs. I’m honored to be able to raise funds for the cause, and the amount of support that I’ve received from the people around me, both in donations and moral support, has been absolutely astounding.

How long have you been running for the Canadian Mental Health Association?

This is my first year running for the CMHA, but it’s definitely not my last!

What is the best training advice you have for others?

The first few steps are always the hardest. Creating inertia is always the hardest part, but once the momentum is going then quitting stops looking like an option. Once the run is over, the sense of accomplishment is one of the best natural feelings you can get. Start slow, there is no need to set personal records right out the gate. If you go too fast too soon, you’ll inevitably burn out and quit. Starting slow allows for a period of adaptation, and overtime you’ll naturally see huge gains and those longer distances will be less and less daunting! Most importantly, just get up and get moving!

Project Purple

How was Project Purple founded:

Project purple was started after founder, Dino Verrelli, watched his dad battle Pancreatic Cancer from 2008 to 2011.


Project Purple is an impact-driven organization with a vision of a world without pancreatic cancer. Our mission is to find a cure for pancreatic cancer and improve the lives of patients through support, hope, and compassion.

Length of Operation: Since September 2010, 9 years.

How long have you been partnering with the marathon? 3 years.

Most Heartwarming moment:

“Meeting families in the local area that have been touched by pancreatic cancer is always so special.”

What are you most proud of?

“Being able to grow over the past three years from a team of eight originally to this year with almost 20 runners.”

What do you want others to know?

“Get involved before it is too late. Pancreatic cancer is the #3 killer of all cancers and soon to be #2 in the USA by the year 2020. There is no early detection no curative treatments and 91% will die. Don’t wait until it impacts your family. Help now while you can to change those odds.”

Recent Milestones hit:

“We recently made our largest research grant ever for $1.25 million. We have raised over $4 million since our beginning.”

Plans for the future:

“Our five year goal is to expand our offerings to more of the country with all things fitness. Our marathon program will continue to grow in terms of participants and we hope to continue to grow the other fitness programs we are involved to cover more of the country.”

Why did you choose to partner with the Detroit Free Press/TCF Bank Marathon?

“Michigan is actually a high impact state for pancreatic cancer and we love all the things that the race provides in terms of distance and the international aspect.”

How can people help your charity?

People can help Project Purple by getting involved, supporting a participant or helping to raise awareness.

If you are interested in being one of our featured charities, email us at jfkelly@michigan.com with all your charity information.