Runners of New York City Marathon volunteer, run anyway

People receive clothing and food at a shelter in Staten Island.
People receive clothing and food at a shelter in Staten Island. (Submitted PHOTO by Todd Kellner , Carroll County Times)

SYKESVILLE - Despite the canceling of the ING New York City Marathon in the wake of Superstorm Sandy, a Mount Airy man who had prepared to run in the race traveled to Manhattan anyway, ready to volunteer.

Todd Kellner, who was supposed to be running with the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's research in honor of his uncle, instead brought 20 gallons of gas to Staten Island, as well as canned goods and clothing.

Kellner and his girlfriend went through parts of Staten Island to the shelters, churches and Salvation Army stations to donate clothes.

"We just went and dropped off a whole truckload of supplies that some of the people from my masonic lodge had donated, and other people had dropped off at the funeral home," said Kellner, the owner of Burrier-Queen Funeral Home & Crematory in Sykesville.

New York City was devastated by Superstorm Sandy, with the bulk of its damage in lower Manhattan and Staten Island. Thousands are still without power in New York and New Jersey.

Staten Island was a mess, Kellner said. The water had subsided by the weekend of the marathon, but there were abandoned cars and houses that were gutted, he said.

"They were just cleaning and throwing everything on the curb," Kellner said. "The looks on people's faces was helplessness," Kellner said.

The Nov. 4 race was canceled Nov. 2, after Kellner's sister, Heather Nerhood, had already flown into New York City from Texas. Nerhood had just received her race bib as she found out the race was canceled, Nerhood said.

The two planned to run the marathon together - Nerhood qualified for the race because of her speed, and Kellner opted to raise money for Parkinson's disease. About two years ago, Kellner's uncle, the president of Burrier-Queen Funeral Home & Crematory in Sykesville, was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease, Kellner said.

While Art Queen struggles with balance occasionally, he is doing well, Kellner said.

Kellner wanted to run with Team Fox because the disease has taken new meaning now that his uncle is diagnosed, and he believes the research the foundation does is worthy, he said.

Kellner raised $3,000 for the marathon. Despite the marathon being canceled, Team Fox raised more than $600,000 for Parkinson's research for the race, according to the foundation's website.

Kellner ran six miles in Central Park Nov. 4, and got to see the finish line, which was still set up, he said. He plans on running in next year's marathon, he said.

Nerhood ran Sunday with 10,000 other people, she said, in an unofficial New York City Marathon she called the "Central Park fun run."

"We were in a place where we didn't feel like we were in anybody's way or curbing the relief effort going on in Staten Island and Long Island," Nerhood said.

Kellner and his sister will both have guaranteed placements for next year's New York City Marathon.

The race typically has 47,000 runners, 8,000 volunteers, 1,000 staffers and millions of spectators. While adjusting plans, the New York Road Runners opted to cancel events Friday, but ultimately canceled the marathon following mounting pressure from residents in Staten Island and Manhattan.

Kellner said he wasn't upset the marathon was canceled, but he wished the mayor would have canceled the event two days prior, which was the general consensus he found with other runners. Nerhood said thousands of people traveled internationally to run in the marathon, and most of them still ran together. While security did not allow people to cross the finish line, people could take photos close enough to it.

"Everybody had forgotten about their disappointment about not being able to run," Nerhood said. "It was absolutely amazing."

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