As an experienced runner, Jennifer Brumley is always excited to lace up her running shoes and hit the pavement, but this time her motivation is more personal than ever.
The mother of three understands the pressure that the COVID-19 pandemic has put on other parents and students. That’s why she’s using that knowledge to propel her to the finish line in United Way for Southeastern Michigan’s first-ever Run United Virtual Marathon.
Funds raised by the event are helping support efforts to close the digital divide for Detroit students by providing them with laptops, internet access and other technology needs. As of the end of September, the event had attracted more than 625 runners and raised nearly $100,000 — enough to support 500 students.
“It is really, really hard,” Jennifer said, speaking about the 2020 school year.
“I know how stressful it is,” she said. “If I can help just one other parent in this situation, then it’s all worth it.”
With most Michigan students attending at least some virtual classes, school supply lists have grown in unexpected and expensive ways.
For Jennifer, a Woodhaven resident, that meant spending nearly $100 to equip each of her children with the tools they will need to be successful throughout the school year.
“It’s no longer pencils and notebooks, it’s laptops and internet,” she said. “Not to mention the wi-fi cost. We had to up our internet speed so that everyone could be online at the same time.”
Jennifer cites lunchtime as another major expense. “My twin boys are 12 and I have another son who’s 13. Being home all day, they’re eating every meal at home. My grocery budget is insane.”
Jennifer’s husband Nicholas, who works at FCA North America, told her about the marathon. The company is sponsoring this year’s event, with more than 300 employees participating.
“When I heard about the cause and the families we’d be helping, I knew I had to do it,” Jennifer said. “Many families are doing the best they can with what they’ve got right now. We all need to rally together during these crazy times and help one another.
“Together, we can work to help get every child what they need to succeed.”
Both Jennifer and Nicholas are veterans and are passionate about giving back to the community. Jennifer sustained an injury during her time in the Army, but she doesn’t let it prevent her from helping others.
“I may be a disabled vet, but I refuse to let that stop me from giving children the best life they deserve,” she said. “As long as I can run, you will see me and my service dog Wesley out there giving back what we can.”
Since last year, Jennifer has completed several marathons.
Wesley, Jennifer’s 3-year-old German Shepard, joins her for the final lap of every race.
So far, she’s logged 14 miles with 11 more to go to complete the Run United Virtual Marathon. She and Wesley will join their Run United teammates virtually on Oct. 18 to run the last 1.2 miles of the 26.2-mile marathon.