Newswise — Ethan Sterk had trained diligently for months in anticipation of running the New York City Marathon. “My wife and two sons were accompanying me back home to New York where we were meeting my family—my sister, brother-in-law, and I planned to run the marathon together,” said the former Staten Island resident who is now an emergency medicine physician at Loyola University Health System, outside Chicago. “We had the flights booked, the time off, the hotels reserved – everything was planned for except the storm.”
Sterk and his family went to New York and for days their plans hung in the balance until an official decision was reached to cancel the marathon. “I felt very conflicted about running the marathon in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, so I completely understood the decision to cancel it,” said Sterk. “I wanted to find a way to help out and looked into ways to contribute medically. However, being on such short notice, the opportunity wasn’t available. Yet, this was my hometown, my neighbors and friends, and here I am, healthy and able while they were in distress.”
Sterk had gone so far as to register and pick up his orange marathon shirt just hours prior to the race being cancelled.
When Sterk heard about a volunteer run to bring much needed supplies to relief centers and to hurricane victims as well as to help with clean-up efforts on Staten Island, he was all in. “I could donate to relief charities from anywhere, but I was right there in the area and wanted to do something hands on,” he said. Sterk’s best friend from childhood is now a police officer who works and lives in their old neighborhood on Staten Island. “The run on Staten Island would also give me a chance to see him and give him an emotional boost after all the devastation he witnessed and overtime he was putting in.”
Sterk filled his backpack with his own spare clothing to donate, donned his orange marathon shirt and headed to the ferry. “I was so surprised and thrilled to see a sea of orange shirts, runners like me who had come to be in the marathon but redirected their efforts to helping those in need,” he said. “Staten Island has long been referred to as the ‘forgotten borough’, so I was amazed that people from all over the world, who had traveled to New York for the marathon, wanted to come help my hometown.”
Sterk ran the backpack filled with supplies five miles from the ferry landing to a high school being used as a relief center. “The school was set up like a refugee camp. Cots and blankets in the gym and sorting tables in the cafeteria to organize clothing, food, water, baby supplies, and more,” he said.
Once Sterk completed his volunteer efforts there, he knew there was an extra leg of the trip he had to make. “I ran from the school to where my best friend was on police duty at the other end of the island, one of the hardest hit areas by the hurricane,” said Sterk. “I could tell it brought him an emotional lift to have an old friend there to help.”
Sterk feels that while he did not do what he originally set out to, the trip was a memorable success. “With all the uncertainties after the hurricane and leading up to the marathon being cancelled, this opportunity to join the ‘New York Runners in Support of Staten Island’ really spoke to me and felt like the right thing to do,” he said. “A lot more help is still needed there, but I’m glad I was able to contribute to the cause.”