Photos provided by United Way
SAYVILLE—A local couple has been selected as two of 12 participants representing United Way of Long Island at the upcoming 47th annual 2017 TCS New York City Marathon on Nov. 5. As members of “Team Mission United,” Sayville residents Ryan and Kayla Stanton are currently training to tackle the difficult 26.2-mile race in support of Long Island’s 100,000 veterans and military families.
Mission United focuses on supporting veterans services in a variety of areas, including employment readiness/training, emergency financial aid/assistance, case management support, health, legal assistance, education, and housing support. Since Sept. 11, 2001, nearly 5,000 individuals have entered the program.
The New York City Marathon is an annual event that courses through the five boroughs of New York City. It is the signature event of the New York Road Runners (NYRR) and the largest marathon in the world. Since its first race in 1970 with only 127 participants and 55 finishers running four laps around Central Park, over 1,100,000 people have completed the race. This year, participants have set a fundraising goal of $35,000 for United Way of LI’s veteran programs.
Prior to meeting Kayla – an avid runner – Ryan simply endured the activity of running as part of his CrossFit training, which he joined as part of his passion for weight lifting. However, when he and Kayla began dating, running became a necessity in order to simply spend a day with her. Once they began saving money for their wedding, he gave up CrossFit to focus racing in triathlons instead.
“Little did I know triathlons were more expensive than CrossFit!” said Ryan. “But during the process, I fell in love with running and haven’t looked back since.”
In May of 2017, Ryan finished his fist Ironman 70.3 in St. Croix – a triathlon that culminated in a half-marathon – this past May. The NYC Marathon will mark his first-ever full marathon. Together with his wife on Team Mission United, he felt that this would be the perfect opportunity to take on the challenge.
“Mission United is an extremely noble cause – one that is absolutely worthy of support from the community,” said Ryan, whose grandfather graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md. “Long Island has one of the largest veteran communities in the nation. I’m supporting my neighbors and folks across Long Island who need these services.”
Ryan is also running as an advocate of the Long Island Federation of Labor.
“I am so appreciative and honored to run not only on behalf of Mission United, but also on behalf of the labor movement,” he said. “This would not be possible without [Long Island labor leaders] John Durso and Roger Clayman opening the door to this opportunity. I just happen to be willing to walk through it.”
“I work closely with Ryan, and speak with him frequently about the races he completes with his wife,” said Durso, president of Local 338 RWDSU/UFCW and the Long Island Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO and United Way of Long Island board member. “Ryan has not only shown an immense dedication to running, but an understanding of the struggles veterans face when they return home. I have complete confidence that he is the perfect person to represent our organization, and veterans, come race day.
“Kayla and Ryan are the perfect addition for Team Mission United,” added Durso. “Sponsoring this power couple as they take on this challenge is a thrill, especially since their efforts benefit the veteran population that so rightfully deserves our full support.”
For Kayla, running has been a prominent part of her life for many years. She got her initial start in high school, but was sidelined indefinitely after a heavy car crash towards the end of her senior year. At the time, she was unsure if she would ever be able to race again. However, her dedication and love for the sport carried her forward on the path to recovery.
In 2006, during a time when most of her peers were occupied with preparing for prom and graduation, Kayla spent four weeks in the hospital and several more months in rehabilitation programs following her accident. Over the next five years, her enduring injuries prevented her from many basic forms of physical activity, particularly running.
Eventually, she underwent surgery on her back in 2011 and once again commenced a period of rehabilitation. Despite having to start from the ground up, Kayla was committed to her longstanding goal of running once again. She ultimately prevailed, and has run three marathons and many half-marathons in the years since.
Together with Ryan, running stands as a cornerstone of their relationship – a consistent presence since their early days together. Due to their shared love of the sport, they each serve as each other’s biggest fans.
“I love his passion and enthusiasm, even when he’s just watching me run,” said Kayla. “And now that he’s into triathlons, I get so excited for him. We keep each other’s passions going.”
In the past, Ryan has often found himself left behind by his wife, and he now has an opportunity to keep pace with her.
“Kayla is so much faster than me,” said Ryan. “Our times together are really the races. She runs her race, I run mine, and one day I’m going to catch her.”
As a nurse, Kayla particularly commiserates with the struggles of veterans returning back home after the trials of combat, and she was instantly captivated by the idea of running in support of such a worthy cause.
“Many of my patients are veterans and experience chronic pain stemming from injuries sustained when they were serving our country,” she said. “I know how important it is to have love around you when you are going through a difficult time. We need to be there for our veterans in their time of need the same way that my loved ones were there for me after my accident…Running 26 miles in support of those that have dedicated their lives to our country is the least I can do.”
To learn more about United Way of Long Island and to support Team Mission United, visit www.unitedwayli.org/missionunited.
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