Runner Jonathan Hendler
Runner Jonathan Hendler.

As a Brooklyn-based organization, we at WITNESS start to feel the buzz in the air every fall as the New York City Marathon approaches. I’ve actually been feeling the energy for quite some time – I’m lucky enough to be inspired daily by the group of runners who make up this year’s “Team WITNESS.” These eight dedicated individuals have been busy training and fundraising for the 2012 ING NYC Marathon, which is fast approaching on November 4th. You can check out their individual fundraising pages on CrowdRise to learn more about our runners.

WITNESS first began participating in the New York Road Runners/ING NYC Marathon charity program in 2010, and since then 52 runners have raised over $63,000 for our work. After November 4th, they will have raced over 1,021.8 miles combined. Talk about the power of collaboration!

I decided to chat with the team about what made them want to run for WITNESS and how they’re using this opportunity to raise support and awareness for human rights and video for change.

Runner Jessica Bal.
Runner Jessica Bal

Team Motivation

Jessica Bal is a multimedia documentarian who is especially interested in the use of visuals and social media to shape our understanding, and in empowering others to tell their stories. She said “seeing WITNESS on the list of NYC marathon charities took me from being about 40% committed to training to 100% committed…. The work that WITNESS does for human rights falls into the ‘rock star’ category of things that I’m passionate about, so the choice was easy – and immediate.”

Runner Jennifer Robbins

Jonathan Hendler, a computer programmer, puts it well: he cares about the planet and the people on it. He feels that “a marathon has come to symbolize our ability to reach our potential” and says, “in the free world, we recognize that running is actually a luxury and a privilege. The freedom to run is so basic, and so it only makes sense to run for WITNESS; eyes for those unseen, run for those who cannot.”

Another one of our runners, Jennifer Robbins, has been blogging to document her journey to the finish line for her supporters. A student at Catholic University, she says “I’m so inspired by the work that WITNESS does all over the world…Through WITNESS, I have learned of so many problems that are plaguing our world today, but I have also seen the incredible amount of people who are determined to help, support, change, and prevent those actions from continuing. Go WITNESS!!”


Fundraising tips?

Runner Sam Dodge’s baby

Sam Dodge, a WITNESS runner who oversees the street outreach programs for the New York City Department of Homeless Services, found fundraising easy once he ‘came out of the closet’ as pro-justice and human rights. He’s talked about WITNESS and the marathon at work and with friends and family. He says, “Just giving people the opportunity to support the great work that WITNESS is doing has been a great honor. Many people would love to be invited to give, large or small, to support activists working for the causes that WITNESS supports them in – this was an easy way for them to join together to make an impact on issues we only read about in the news.”

When asked to share some of her fundraising tips, Jennifer says: “Never underestimate how much people will donate for the promise of homemade chocolate chip cookies. Seriously.”

We’ve all got something to learn.



We particularly love Jessica’s enthusiastic words: “In order to help others SEE IT, FILM IT, and CHANGE IT, I’m ready to RUN IT.”

Wish these amazing runners good luck on November 4th!

Special thanks to Sidney Etienne at Kreyol Graffix for printing beautiful jerseys for all of our runners!


Ashley Patterson is the external relations associate at WITNESS. Prior to joining our team, she performed in over 20 plays and commercials, volunteered at (RED) and worked on outreach for a Sundance award-winning documentary film.

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