Nearly 650 volunteers run/walk to support United Way digital literacy/Detroit Free Press Marathon

For the past five years, United Way for Southeastern Michigan has been a gold-level charity partner of the Detroit Free Press/TCF Bank Marathon. Each year, United Way’s Run United team of hundreds of runners raises funds to support its mission of helping households become stable and ensuring children have the support they need to thrive.

FCA’s Team Jeep has been the backbone of the Run United team for years, and their employees have raised a total of more than $300,000.

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit southeastern Michigan, United Way and FCA wanted to do something to support people impacted by the pandemic and carry on the momentum of Run United. In August, they launched the first-ever Run United Virtual Marathon. This unique event challenged participants to log 26.2 miles over the course of a month—the distance of a marathon—ending with a 1.2-mile run or walk on Oct. 18, the date of what would have been the 2020 Free Press Marathon.

Funds raised by the Run United Virtual Marathon go to support United Way’s efforts to support digital inclusion in Detroit, providing students with laptops and other technology they need to learn.

As of Oct. 15, nearly 650 people had signed up for the Run United Virtual Marathon. Collectively, they have logged more than 20,000 miles and raised more than $154,000 —enough to support more than 760 Detroit students.

Team Jeep makes up more than half of those participants, and they have raised more than $114,000.

“With COVID-19, people are being impacted directly,” said Barb Pilarski, Head of Business Development at FCA – North America. “Many FCA parents have their school-aged kids at home and so they are experiencing first-hand how critical the right technology is to their children’s success. That personal experience has made it easier for Team Jeep members to ask for donations, and for more people to want to contribute financially to the cause.”

This Sunday, Oct. 18, participants will complete the final 1.2 miles together in a virtual “race.”

Each runner created a personalized profile to track their progress over the past month. Participants earned points by fundraising, posting photos, logging miles, volunteering, and inviting friends and family to join.

“We’re so proud of how the Run United team continues to grow every year and amazed at the outpouring of support for the students and families we serve,” said Dr. Darienne Hudson, president and CEO, United Way for Southeastern Michigan. “The COVID-19 pandemic has stretched the resources of families who were already struggling to make ends meet, but we continue to see the community and our partners like FCA rise to the challenge and support one another through the toughest of times.”

Specific Runner details

Jeanine Fields, Detroit resident and FCA employee. Running her first marathon with the Free Press Virtual Marathon and has raised more than $1,000.

Fred Davis, Auburn Hills resident and FCA employee. Running the full marathon with the Free Press Virtual Marathon and has raised more than $1,100.

Marlo Vitous, Clarkston resident and head of Supply Chain Planning at FCA – North America. New to running and is completing the Run United Virtual Marathon. Has raised more than $4,600.

“I just wanted to help the kids in Detroit have the same technology for their education that my kids have,” said Vitous. “My friends and my supply chain team have really made the difference with their generous donations. I’m so thankful to all of them.”

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About United Way for Southeastern Michigan

United Way for Southeastern Michigan mobilizes the caring power of Macomb, Oakland, and Wayne counties to improve lives in measurable and lasting ways, in partnership with more than 700 agency partners. United Way is a leader in convening entities including business, labor, and government toward achieving positive outcomes for individuals and families around its Basic Needs & Health; Education; and Economic Prosperity strategies. The organization engages the community in its work via volunteerism and advocacy efforts, and its annual campaign. For more information visit