2016-03-31 / News

C.K. Burns teacher uses quirky songs to raise money to run in Boston Marathon

By Ben Meiklejohn
Staff Writer

SACO – A fifth-grade teacher at C. K. Burns School who is running her fifth Boston Marathon this year has come up with a creative way to raise $15,000 for the Dana Farber Cancer Institute – an online singing challenge.

Nancy Smith, who lives in Kennebunkport, started a challenge to her friends and family to either donate or record a video singing “You Get What You Give” by the New Radicals, but an honest mistake by her husband, Peter Smith, has turned the challenge into a free-for-all where supporters are picking their own songs to sing and post.

Nancy Smith said she first ran in the Boston Marathon as a fundraiser for the Dana Farber Cancer Institute in 2001 with the intention of doing it every five years. In 2011, Nancy Smith was joined by her younger daughter, Caitrin Smith; this year, Nancy's oldest daughter, Colleen Smith, will run with her to help raise money.

Nancy said in 2001, when she first began running for the institute, the Internet and social media were not as popular and commonplace. She relied on traditional forms of fundraising – mailing letters to supporters. This year, Nancy said she and Colleen tried to think outside the box.

“What are we going to do to get people excited about fundraising?” Nancy said. “I kept thinking about the ALS challenge and how that caught fire, and then I read about something that went viral.

“I was reading about this campaign that was a lot of black hip-hop artists who were finding what you would consider a pretty traditional white pop song, and they were doing their own version of it, and it was going wild on Twitter.”

Nancy Smith said the campaign was called Trap Covers, and it got her thinking about what song would go good with her fundraising campaign. When she told her fifthgrade students about the idea, they showed her how to use the Musical.ly app, which allows voice-overs to be added into popular songs.

Nancy Smith went home and made her own challenge, picking “You Get What You Give” as the theme song for her fundraiser, and posted herself singing the song on YouTube and challenging her husband to donate or sing.

Peter Smith however, didn't quite understand that New Radicals was the name of the band playing the song, and thought that Nancy Smith had challenged him to sing any radical song.

“I was asked to sing some radical song,” Peter Smith said on his challenge video, where he sang “You Can't Always Get What You Want” by the Rolling Stones.

Peter also upped the ante, by saying he would sing another song as Mick Jagger for every $250 donated, or for $300, will stop singing.

Nancy Smith said they have received numerous $299 donation, but no $300 donations to stop her husband.

Peter Smith said seven people have donated $250 each to get him to sing Mick Jagger songs, and he's thinking about writing his own check for $300 to get himself to stop singing.

“I thought, OK, I'll sing something, and it kind of took off,” Peter Smith said. “Now everybody is doing their own song. It's kind of taken on a funny life of its own.”

Peter Smith said the irony is that if people sing, they don't have to donate, but most people are doing both.

“It's hysterical what people are choosing,” said Nancy Smith. “My sister and father-in-law did 'Sweet Caroline.'”

Nancy Smith said her mother-in-law got in on the action also, singing “God Bless America” for the first time publicly since she was 16 years old.

Nancy and Colleen Smith have been training for the marathon together all winter, running, but Nancy said she had contemplated not running this year until she ran into a friend.

“I have a friend who summers in Old Orchard Beach, and I said tongue and cheek that I was thinking of eating pasta in Italy this year. That might be the next thing on my bucket list,” Nancy Smith said. “My friend held my hand and said, 'I might need you this year.' He had stage 4 brain cancer.”

Nancy Smith said she and her daughter have raised $12,000 so far, and each dollar raised will be matched by another organization, so if she raises $15,000, it will turn into $30,000 for the Dana Farber Cancer Institute.

To see the responses to Nancy and Colleen Smith's “You Get What You Give” challenge, visit Nancy Smith's YouTube site at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCWZhzO4_ KilVJdD4qvTFa2A or visit their fundraising page at www.rundfmc.org/2016/colleenandnancy.

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