The Special Olympics hold a special place in Jessica Upton’s heart, and this year, she’s going the distance (26 miles, 385 yards to be exact) to raise money for the cause.
Upton is running the Boston Marathon (her first) as a member of Team XtraMile. Her goal is to raise $9,000 for Special Olympics Massachusetts by race day (April 16). She has already held a couple of fundraisers to get there including a March Madness 5K Run/Walk last Saturday in Lynn.
“The money I raise as part of the 2018 Boston Marathon will help give nearly 12,000 Massachusetts-based Special Olympic athletes an opportunity to compete in free, year-round individualized and team sporting events,” Upton said.
She and her husband, Rob, a sixth-grade history teacher at Pickering Middle School and the former Classical High boys soccer coach, live in Lynn. They have a two-year old daughter, Norah.
Upton said she never considered herself a runner, but she was an athlete growing up. She played soccer and lacrosse and went on to coach both at the high school level. She is a former Classical High girls soccer assistant coach and she still coaches girls lacrosse at Salem High.
But she has seen how important the Special Olympics are through her work in the schools in a severe special needs classroom, as an assistant athletic director at Salem High and through her involvement with the Best Buddies program. Upton currently works at MGH Institute of Health Professions.
“I’ve seen the confidence it (participating in the Special Olympics) gives those athletes,” Upton said. “The athletes grow and build lifelong friendships they otherwise wouldn’t have.”
Those who would like to help Upton reach her fundraising goal can do so through her website at https://www.crowdrise.com/jessicaupton.
“I’m truly honored to run on behalf of the Special Olympics,” Upton said. “With over 6.5 million people in the United States living with an intellectual disability, there is still a lot of work to be done to make each person feel like a Gold Medal recipient.”