One book, two communities,thousands inspired to make a difference
Hundreds of children and their parents hit the road to raise money for The Salvation Army of Norristown at the Maniac Magee Run for the Homeless! The sun was shining and Chatham Park Elementary was a sea of red t-shirts, as walkers and runners made their way through the neighborhoods surrounding the school for the one mile fun walk and two-mile run on Saturday, May 14.
The event started 18 years ago after the parent-teacher organization (PTO) at Chatham Park Elementary School in Havertown became inspired by the book Maniac Magee. Maniac Magee is a novel authored by Norristown native Jerry Spinelli, who later raised his family in the Chatham Park community. The novel won the esteemed Newbery Medal and is a favorite to many school children. The story takes place in the Norristown –area. It is centered on Jeffery Lionel Magee, an 11-year old homeless boy, nicknamed Maniac Magee, who goes on the run in search of a place to belong. It’s a story touching on prejudice, love, home, baseball, fear and understanding. With the author’s ties to both Chatham Park and Norristown, the book’s basis in Norristown and the lead character being homeless, the PTO has always donated race proceeds to The Salvation Army of Norristown’s Family Shelter.
The Maniac Magee Run for the Homeless raised $7,500 this year, $2,500 over 2015. Jerry, who resides in Phoenixville with his wife, was on-hand at the event, where he greeted children, graciously posed for photos and signed autographs, and then awarded medals to the top finishers.
“Wherever Maniac Magee went, he carried a book,” Jerry told the crowd. “That’s what I encourage you to do. You need to play, but read too. Do both!”
First place male and overall race winner was Leo Goldszal, a sophomore at Haverford High School. First place female was Karen Buchanan, a seventh grade student at Haverford Middle School. Judging by the smiles on children’s faces, it was clear that everyone who participated was a winner.
Captain Felicia Flora, co-commanding officer of The Salvation Army of Norristown addressed the crowd just before the awards were announced.
“Thank you to Chatham Park for everything that you do year after year to support our Family Shelter. And thank you, Jerry. If it wasn’t for you writing this book and shining a light on homelessness in Norristown, we wouldn’t have this wonderful event,” she said.
Since its inception, the Maniac Magee Run for the Homeless has raised more than $100,000 for The Salvation Army of Norristown’s Family Shelter.