My Place Teen Center, the charitable recipient of the 2016 TD Beach to Beacon 10K, would like to express heartfelt gratitude for the organizers’ financial gift, hospitality, planning, inclusiveness and warmth.

To have that backstage access, to witness the volunteer corps’ efforts, the synchronization, the athletes’ will and Joanie Samuelson’s tears at the finish line, was life-changing and something we will never forget. Please know that this incredible experience will remain firmly etched.

It is fitting that the race ends at the Portland Head Light. A beacon. A harbinger of hope. Because My Place Teen Center is that lighthouse and many of our kids are like the TD B2B’s runners. At the very back of the pack. And they are being chased by things not part of this race. They are being chased by poverty. Not having enough food. Drugs. Getting their electricity turned off. Parents in jail. Neglect. Sleeping in a car.

And yet in front of them are thousands – running to a finish line filled with cheers, food, water, hugs and accomplishment. So, this is their race to stay in school. A race to stay safe. A race to find comfort and care. A race to get out. So the kids run. They run fast. They run slow. Sometimes they stop.

They wonder if they can take another step. Another step away from those chasing them. Sweat stings their eyes. Their feet are blistering. They are thirsty. They feel sick. They lose their breath. Their legs feel like lead.

But then they see it. And it’s shining ever so brightly. “Come to me,” it says. “Just a little bit further.” Their race is their life. A life that is being chased by heart wrenching circumstances.

Thank you to the TD B2B community of care ensuring they cross that life-changing finish line, with dignity.

Donna Dwyer

CEO, My Place Teen Center

Westbrook