Mar 03 2015

A Running Example For His Students

He was all over the news last fall. New York City media covered his 100-mile run and the story even made headlines along with TV, radio and social media conversation across the country.

Dan O’Keefe is the principal of Cardinal Spellman High School in The Bronx. Before cheering students, parents, faculty, coaches, alumni and neighbors, he accomplished his goal of running 100 miles to raise funds for the school’s student sports and activities programs. He finished with time to spare, crossing the tape at 5:49 a.m. on a Saturday to complete the run in less than 24 hours.

The support was amazing. Dan raised a minimum $120,000. Post-run money continues to arrive. Some people brought food and drink to the run to provide Dan with the fuel and hydration he needed, and to feed the hundreds of fans surrounding the school’s athletic field. Some people even joined Dan, taking laps with him around the track.

As he prepared for the run, Dan challenged the students to bring in 10 sponsors at $10 each for a total of $100 per student. Their involvement was voluntary as the school never initiates mandatory fund-raising among the students. As is common at Catholic schools, fundraisers usually remain among family and close friends. But the media coverage before and during Dan’s run created a significant increase in support among the greater Spellman community and many others outside of the school.

When he first proposed the challenge, Dan admitted that the endurance run received some raised eyebrows from faculty and students. But, he knew that he was in his comfort zone. He ran cross-country for his Queens high school. He ran marathons during college and he has completed the New York City marathon. He also has finished the Vermont 100 and the New Jersey 100, battling rugged terrain in those runs compared to the modern flat track on Cardinal Spellman’ athletic field.

“I constantly challenge the students at Spellman to achieve their limits and beyond,” Dan told one newspaper. “I tell them to never let anyone say something is impossible.”

What an accomplishment. But even more, Dan is a wonderful role model for all his students.

- Jim