Boston Marathon victims' mom will run in Columbia fundraiser

Carol Downing will run in her first race since the Boston Marathon when a bomb blast injured her daughters Erika Brannock and Nicole Gross on Sunday, June 2, in the Howard County Striders 4.09 run in Columbia.

"I want to participate in a race that is supporting my girls," Downing said Tuesday from Boston, where Erika is recovering after having her left leg amputated below the knee. "A lot of my friends and family are going to be there, and I want to say thank you to the community for their outpouring of generosity and their kindness."

The distance for the fundraiser was chosen because there were 4 hours, 9 minutes on the Boston Marathon race clock when the first bomb exploded.

Downing, of Monkton, was nearing the finish line of the race when the bombs went off. Brannock and Gross, who graduated from Mt. Hebron High School in Ellicott City in 2003 and 1999, respectively, were at the finish line to celebrate along with Gross' husband, Michael. Nicole Gross had both legs broken and Michael suffered burns, according to Downing.

Downing, 57, said Tuesday that the "strength and positive attitudes of my daughters has helped me through this ordeal."

She said Brannock, a 29-year-old preschool teacher at Trinity Episcopal Children's Center in Towson, "is making progress and we're hoping she is ready for rehab soon."

Downing said Nicole Gross returned to her home in Charlotte, N.C., May 18 "and is doing very well walking on crutches. Michael has been constantly by her side since the injuries and is now by her side at home taking care of her."

The Striders organized the race to help the family, with all proceeds from the $15 registration fee and from donations going to the Be Strong Stay Strong Fund, which benefits Brannock and the Grosses. The event is scheduled to start at 8 a.m. at Oakland Mills High School, 9540 Kilimanjaro Road, in Columbia.

The Striders are donating timing chips and numbers for the runners, according to Striders President Bill Arbelaez. Even the sign-up organization, Get Me Registered, it cutting its fee by about 80 percent, he said, and the Striders are paying the rest.

He added that there will be no food at the finish line and no T-shirts or medals for finishers.

"Our focus is to give everything we possibly can to the Be Strong Stay Strong Fund for the Brannock family," said Arbelaez, who added that there will be race-day registration. "The only way we can do that is by cutting every cost possible. Many people who run races are used to getting premiums like T-shirts and food, and we want to channel the money to the foundation. We want to provide an opportunity for the runners to do something that we know they love to do, and in so doing they're helping out someone who needs their best wishes and their funding."

Downing, who ran in a Striders event in February, said participating in an organized race for the first time since the April 15 event "is not scary at all. I'm really looking forward to seeing everyone."

A second fundraiser will be held later in the day in Ellicott City. The Taste of Historic Ellicott City event to benefit Brannock will be held from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Diamondback Tavern. Proceeds from the $15 cover, silent auction, as well as 50 percent of all sales during the event will go to The Brannock Fund, according to Diamonback bar manager Conor Riley.

"She went to Mt. Hebron and she's a teacher, and we're trying to help her out as best we can," Riley said. "We try to do what's best for the community and this seemed like a worthwhile cause."


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