Carrying the "Flame of Hope" to Boston

Erich Gross ran in the Boston Marathon to raise money for Special Olympics.Erich Gross, who lives in Santa Maria, has never let a challenge keep him from his dreams. Sports and staying in good shape have always been a very important part of Erich’s life, which is why Special Olympics and the Law Enforcement Torch Run (LETR) captured his heart.

Erich has been a long-time supporter of LETR and Special Olympics Northern Santa Barbara County since the inception of the Bull Canyon Run fundraiser 16 years ago.

In 2013, Erich wanted to give more to Special Olympics athletes. When he received the news that he had qualified for the Boston Marathon, he decided to take it upon himself to raise money for Special Olympics during his journey.

Erich set a goal to raise $5,000 for Special Olympics. As weeks passed, Special Olympics staff came to expect Erich walking into their office with stacks of money.

"The Boston Marathon motivated me to give back to the community, and I wanted to share the joy of my experience with Special Olympics, which has always been near to my heart," said Erich. "I have fundraised for other charities in the past, but I wanted this to be my biggest fundraising effort ever."

April 15 came and Erich laced up his shoes, put on his Special Olympics run gear, and ran the Boston Marathon. Throughout the race, he maintained his pace, but as he neared the finish line with the clock showing 4:05:03, Erich and all other runners near him were stopped.

Rather than returning to California on a high, Erich came home with a heavy heart. Shortly afterwards, he planned to participate in the Bull Canyon Run benefitting Special Olympics. Ken George, the Northern Santa Barbara County Law Enforcement Torch Run Coordinator and organizer of the Bull Canyon Run, asked Erich to finish the Boston Marathon during the event. He thought it was a wonderful idea and found his legs again.

Prior to the start of the Bull Canyon Run, 4:05:03 was placed on the clock to honor the Boston Marathon bombing victims. Erich then ran the final leg of the Boston Marathon in Santa Maria. When he crossed the finish line, he symbolically received his Boston Marathon medal.

Through Erich’s personal efforts, he surpassed his goal and raised more than $8,000 for Special Olympics Northern Santa Barbra County and showed everyone the true spirit of sportsmanship.

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