On July 15, Southington, CT resident Caitlin Handley will participate in the 8th annual Run to Home Base presented by New Balance at Fenway in support of Home Base, a Red Sox Foundation and Massachusetts General Hospital Program.
The 9K run and 5K run/walk begins outside Fenway Park and ends with participants crossing home plate, raising necessary funds for the clinical care and support provided by Home Base and their mission to heal the invisible wounds for Post-9/11 Veterans, Service Members and their Families. Invisible wounds include post-traumatic stress, traumatic brain injury and other issues associated with the deployment cycle.
As a nurse and girlfriend of a Veteran, Home Base’s mission resonated with Handley and inspired her to create the “Miles for Marines” team in honor of her boyfriend: Marine Veteran and Purple Heart recipient Wesley Cote. To Handley, Wes embodies the spirit of a true American hero. But, as she often recalls, the mental and emotional toil of war, as well as the shortcomings of Veteran mental healthcare is not foreign to them both.
“I will never truly understand the things Wes saw while deployed overseas and the trauma he endured, but I will always strive to be his strongest support system,” Handley said.
In 2009, Cote suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI) and a shattered knee after being hit by an improvised explosive device (IED) while on his third tour in Afghanistan. Following two months of recovery in a hospital in Germany, and against the advice of his medical team, Cote returned to his unit in Afghanistan to complete his tour alongside his brothers of the 2nd Battalion 8th Marines.
“Behind the contagious laugh and strong exterior, I bear witness to the emotional and mental scars he so strongly deals with every day,” Handley said. “The sights, the sounds, and the memories of war do not simply just escape once you return home.”
Handley first heard of Home Base during her nursing training in Boston, and was drawn to the program’s focus on the invisible wounds, post-traumatic stress (PTS) and TBI and the hands-on, integrative approach to Veteran care. Handley has always wanted to participate in the Run to Home Base, but says the timing was just never right. This year, however, she will be running with her sister to show Cote– and other Veterans – that their struggles do not go unnoticed and the sacrifices they have made are appreciated. “I am by no means a runner, and I have never participated in a road race before, but with everything these Veterans have done for us, it’s one small thing I can do for them to say ‘thank you.’”
The minimum fundraising goal for participants is $750, but Handley is hoping to hit $2,000. If you would like to support Handley in her fundraising efforts, please visit her team’s 2017 Run to Home Base fundraising page here.