Dennis Harkins has turned a good deed into a viable fund-raising project to raise money and academic support for children impacted by homelessness.
Harkins, a junior majoring in Marketing and Management at the Sawyer Business School, co-founded the Outrunning Homelessness 5K/2.6 Mile Race and Fun Walk in 2011, when he was still in high school, working with fellow members of the Oliver Ames School on Wheels Club.
As a cross-country runner who already had been volunteering with School on Wheels of Massachusetts (SOWMA), he figured that organizing a race would be the best and most logical way to put his talents to work for the organization. And though Harkins graduated soon after the fund-raiser’s inception, his spirit for community service didn't fade once he moved from high school to college. He continues working with Outrunning Homelessness and now serves on the SOWMA board of directors.
Racer registration, course planning, and general management are just a few of the responsibilities that come with his position. But Harkins thanks Suffolk University for giving him the knowledge he needs to get the job done. He’s learned how to manage, communicate with, and motivate people through his Sawyer Business School experience. These acquired skills have made him effective in recruiting people for the fund-raiser — not a small reason why participation in the race nearly doubles every year.
But while the money raised through Outrunning Homelessness has almost tripled since its first year, Harkins says that the most rewarding part of what he does is raising awareness about child homelessness.
Frequent moves make education inconsistent for children impacted by homelessness., and Harkins says that events like the 5K bring home the message that less than one in four homeless teens will graduate from high school.
“You can raise all the money that you want for the kids, but it’s when you give them what the money goes towards — backpacks, supplies, tutoring — when you see the reaction on their faces, that makes all the difference,” says Harkins.
The fourth annual Outrunning Homelessness Race and Fun Walk is scheduled for 9 a.m. Saturday, April 26, at Borderland State Park in Easton.
Update: May 7, 2014
Outrunning Homelessness 2014 attracted more than 600 registered participants and more than 20 corporate sponsors, raising more than $40,600. The funds will help SOWMA to continue serving students who have no place to call home.