Wednesday, August 14, 2013
Rachel Sheridan exudes happiness.
It's easy to talk to her – she has a wide smile, giggles often and overflows with a bubbly personality. She talks with me cheerfully about her nieces, her photography business and her recently discovered love of running. You would never know from talking with her that Sheridan saw her fair share of tragedy when her fiancé, Brandon Thompson, died in June 2007 fighting a fire at the Sofa Super Store.
“After the accident there was such a tremendous amount of support from the Charleston community, from the firefighter community, even the national community… Anything I can do to pay it forward is worth it,” she said.
For Sheridan, repaying the kindness that was shown to her and the families of other victims is her biggest goal, and Nov. 3 she will make her own contribution by raising money and running with the Leary Firefighters Foundation team in the ING New York City Marathon.
Although there are a wide variety of charities to run for, the Leary Firefighters Foundation was an obvious choice for Sheridan.
“When the fire in Charleston happened, Denis Leary personally donated $100,000,” she said.
Actor Denis Leary founded the charity after six firefighters, including his cousin, died in a 2000 fire in his hometown. The foundation raises and donates money to fire departments in need, which pays for training and updated equipment.
While each team member is required to raise $3,000 for the foundation, Sheridan's personal goal is to raise $4,000.
“I'm not the kind of person to do the minimum,” she said.
In addition to her financial goals, Sheridan also hopes to raise awareness for the foundation. “There are so many good charities to choose from, so that awareness for the foundation and for the cause goes above and beyond what a dollar will bring.”
Her financial goals may be substantial, but her personal goal is just to cross the finish line; she hopes to annually participate in the race but “that involves surviving the first one,” she joked.
The giggles continue when I ask if running was something she and Brandon enjoyed together.
“Brandon was not a runner – at all,” she said with a laugh.
Thompson was 27 years old when he died and had been firefighting for more than 11 years. He worked at a variety of area stations, including the City of Charleston Fire Department and Summerville Fire & Rescue. The couple was engaged to be married on Oct. 7, 2007, which was only four months away. Sheridan and Thompson dated for six years before their engagement.
Sheridan's running started with Thompson.
“I'm not a huge runner, I've always done small things, but I decided to run the Save the Light Half Marathon on Folly Beach in 2012 and that was really emotional for me. That was where we were supposed to get married, so it was sort of a way to get closure for me,” she said.
Shortly after the race her niece asked when she would run a full marathon and Sheridan couldn't get the idea out of her head. She discovered the Leary Firefighters Foundation team in early June and registered for the marathon through the team, which has no restrictions on qualifying times as long as participants can raise the funds.
So far Sheridan has raised “about $750, and that's only from posting it on Facebook,” she said.
Sheridan admitted she was a bit nervous for the marathon – the farthest she's ever run is 15 miles – but when I asked why she didn't just raise the money without running the race, she answered confidently: “I just feel like I can either sit here and ask for the money, or I can earn it.”
To donate to the Leary Firefighters Foundation for Rachel, go to http://www.active.com/donations/fundraise_public.cfm?ckey=TEAMLFF&key=rsheridan&force_a2=y