Category Archives: Quincy

Baker Family Finishes Marathons – Here and There

By Ricky Doyle

Going from a drunk, chubby stoner to a marathon runner may not be a direct route, yet that’s how Matt Baker, 23, of Quincy describes his jump from adolescence to adulthood. The inspiration behind this quantum leap is his father, Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Baker of the United States Army National Guard who is currently deployed in Iraq on a 13-month tour.

On Marathon Monday in Boston, Matt and his father exchanged e-mails discussing a rare feat. Both crossed the finish line after 26.2 miles, but with a BIG difference. The finish lines were on opposite sides of the planet.

Matt Baker completed the Boston Marathon at 3:02 p.m., finishing the course in just over four hours and 20 minutes. Two days earlier, 45-year-old Christopher Baker trekked the same distance through the sands of Tallil in Iraq as part of a Boston-sanctioned marathon. He finished in three hours and 26 minutes, fourth overall and first in his brigade.

“I’m never going to hear the end of this one,” said the younger Baker of his father’s time. “Seriously though, pretty impressive if you ask me.”

An experienced runner, Christopher finished an hour ahead of his targeted time on Saturday. He began competing in 1993 when he ran the Boston Marathon for the first time. Matt’s experience was his first marathon. He had never run a road race prior to Marathon Monday and started training last December after finishing his studies at the University of Vermont — both as a way to honor his father and to get into better shape. 

Training for the Boston Marathon was a productive use of time in the months leading up to graduation and he ran as part of a team raising money for the New England Patriots Charitable Foundation.

“I’ve grown up watching the [Boston] marathon and love Patriots’ Day, so running was always in the back of my mind,” he said. “For Christmas, all my gifts were running gear so at that point, I was pretty much all in.”

Matt Baker followed a 16-week training program that included increasing his mileage weekly. About every other week, he would set new long distance goals. With a focus on remaining healthy and minimizing fatigue, he ran three or four times a week, getting advice from his father via e-mail.

“Every time I run, I think about how my father can do this in a sun-baked hellhole of a warzone,” he said.

Baker’s commitment surprised his friends and family at first. Ultimately though, he gained universal support. “He is one kid that I never imagined would run a marathon,” said Baker’s long-time friend Timothy McCarthy. “I honestly laughed when I heard the idea. But, what can I say? I’m proud of him.”

Baker described Marathon Monday as one of the proudest days of his life, not only for his accomplishments – and his father’s- but for the entire city of Boston.

“I could literally feel the spirit of support and camaraderie amongst the runners and the crowd,” he said. “It is a day that really shows the true spirit of the city.”

The last four miles were the most challenging, Baker admits , but also the most exhilarating.
A raucous crowd, equipped with air horns and ‘Kiss Me’ signs, greeted marathoners as they dashed through Kenmore Square for the final stretch. Baker’s arrival sent the crowd into a frenzy. Friends and family shouted his name, and he responded with a sky-high fist pump and high-fives all around.

Although he’s reluctant to admit catching the runner’s bug, Baker said he hopes to run in a half marathon next month and the Falmouth Road Race this summer. Younger brother, Chris, 19,  attended Monday’s race and said he may run a Boston Marathon too — a feat to further a Baker family legacy.


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Quincy’s Community Partnership A Growing Success For Ed Funding

By Krista Mastroianni

Students, teachers, and community members gathered to celebrate the fifth annual Recognition Breakfast for Quincy Public School’s Community Partnership Program. As the schools look to close a $2 million budget gap, the program’s success and best year ever has been a bright spot.

Led by Keith Segalla for the past five years, the program gathers support from local businesses for Quincy’s education system. Segalla restructured the program to focus on four areas: Student Support, Site Support, Career Support, and fundraising, known as the President’s Path, which allows businesses to donate from $500 to upwards of $5,000 in cash or in-kind services and products. Currently, 82 businesses  help offset fundraising expenses for educational services. One is the mini-grant program, where the school board offers up to $350-per-teacher  for hands-on items that enhance student learning experiences. This year, 105 teachers received mini-grants; a total of $32,000 for items such as digital cameras, computer math programs and audio books.

During the recognition breakfast in late March, mini-grant recipient guidance councilor Maura Shaughnessy spoke of how the small donation was an educational boost for her students at Bernazzani Elementary School. Shaughnessy used the money to buy supplies for knitting blankets.

“We worked with Helping Hands Community Service Program and made blankets for homeless children in shelters,” said Shaughnessy. Before making the blankets, a community member came and spoke to the children about homelessness.

Fundraisers for mini-grants have become much-anticipated annual events such as the Bee-Gee and Abba concert held this year at Quincy’s Marriott Hotel, or the upcoming Partnership Golf Tournament.

The hotel is one of the local businesses that helped Segalla structure the unique program and made it successful enough to convince other communities to attempt duplicating it.

“These wonderful people actually designed this for us. They came up with the idea, understood that we needed to raise money and suggested a four level type of partnership. They agreed to help us find support as long as we maintained it and focus on three main goals, which are the mini-grants, technology, and music,” said Segalla.

Weymouth, Braintree, Milton, and Cohasset are among the towns where Segalla has shared the program in hopes that they can build the same community backing. These towns all have smaller fundraising components, but not a solid community program that manages fundraising each year. Weymouth is in the early stages of creating a similar partnership program, he said.

“It [the program] wasn’t this structured five years ago, it takes time,” said Segalla,” We’re unique. We have a foundation for the grants and support to off set the expenses.”

Career Support has been another successful element to the Partnership Program. High school students are given the opportunity to shadow and work with local businesses on a regular basis in fields such as health care, plumbing and electric work, and marketing. Students are regularly invited to workshops that teach them how to manage money, choose the right career, and develop networking skills.

Beverly Tangvik of Arbella Charitable Foundation spoke at the breakfast, representing the ‘spirit of service.’

“We understand that education is another aspect that’s hit by tough economic times. We plan to continue to contribute to help with funding and I appreciate students learning from a variety of components,” she said.

Amanda Christello, a senior at North Quincy High School, is working with Marina Bay Long Term Cancer Facility, and has worked with various local rehabilitation centers for the past three years through the Partnership Program. She spoke about her experience working with these companies and the positive impact it has had on her educational experience.

“The class provides me with the clinical skills and appreciation for health care needs. They respect us as students who are still learning, “said Christello. “These past three years have given me a sincere sense of direction.”

Christello said she plans on attending nursing school in the fall, a choice she said might not have been possible wihtout her hands-on experience.

The consistent increase in support is the result of  word-of- mouth among area companies, Segalla added. Firms receive a great deal of publicity from joining  and encourage other locals to seek Segalla out. On average, Segalla said he adds between three and five businesses to the program annually.

“I have a model they can look at [and they] choose their options based on their financial situation. They want to do things with their employees and we want them to do that because our kids benefit but if we can get $500 in donations to off-set our fundraising expenses… and then every year we try to increase that,” he said.

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