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Stride by stride,
father and son run for Horizons

“Boston is the gold standard,” 80-year-old Kenneth Williams stated matter-of-factly, a twinkle in his eye. The duality of his comment serves both as a reference to the Boston Marathon, which he’ll be running on behalf of Horizons families this April, as well as how Horizons for Homeless Children operates locally to serve the greater community.

“We were able to visit Horizons in advance of last year’s Boston Marathon; we learned a great deal and were most impressed,” Kenneth shared. “It was great to see firsthand an organization providing such a wonderful service to the children of the area.”

As a veteran runner of over 70 marathons worldwide, Mr. Williams has secured the esteemed Boston Marathon medals as souvenirs for all four of his children and 15 grandchildren, is working on one for each of his five great-grandchildren, and is an honored source for all things marathon. From Kilimanjaro to London, Berlin, Chicago, New York, Memphis, Portland, Nashville – the list on his runner’s resume goes on and on, but the commonwealth’s 26-mile marathon remains a shining beacon in his four decades of dedication to the sport.

When Bob Cremin – a mutual Boston Marathon veteran and legacy supporter of Horizons – connected with Kenneth in a 75+ runners’ group, he was eager to learn about the opportunity to run Boston on behalf of Horizons’ families and add another notch in his metaphorical marathon belt.

“This year will be my 21st (20th consecutive!) Boston marathon.” Kenneth added with a grin.

A family-oriented philanthropist from small town Corinth, Mississippi, Kenneth’s running career and success in his 115-year-old family-owned Coca-Cola business have provided him opportunities to give back to the communities he’s run through. His son Ken has followed in his well-tread footsteps, both in running, business, and philanthropy. Together, they’ve joined Horizons’ marathon team for the second year in a row as a way to give back to children and families facing homelessness throughout Boston and beyond.

 

Ken and Kenneth Williams after running a marathon together

“When we toured Horizons during last year’s October marathon, we were blown away,” Ken shared of their experience. “It’s a beautiful facility and I was taken aback by how big it was! I didn’t know how playgrounds would work in a big city, so it was cool to see the outdoor playground that was built for all the kids. We went through classrooms and saw all the different spaces – it serves a lot of people.”

 

View from a Horizons classroom overlooking the Mazzella Preschool Playground

“We also got a lot of insight into how the families were served,” Ken continued, in reference to Horizons’ Family Partnerships Program and Playspace. “We learned how Horizons is not just taking care of the kids but also the parents, trying to help meet the needs of single moms and dads and families who are going through a period of trouble.”  The father and son duo were keenly tuned into Horizons’ multi-generational approach.

“For 5 generations, we’ve believed in working hard and giving back,” Kenneth chimed in. “We have been very blessed, and we recognize that. To whom much is given, much is expected. We strive to be great friends with the communities that we serve.”

A family man through and through, when asked if Kenneth and Ken could expect a few friendly faces in the crowd on marathon day, Kenneth was quick to reply.

“I’m bringing my best friends to the Boston Marathon,” he shared, glancing over to his son. “They just so happen to be my children.”

Both chuckled and agreed that the thing they’re most looking forward to after the 26-mile run through Boston’s city streets was a taste of home – “A refreshing Diet Coke!”. Their fundraising efforts and representation of Horizons during marathon day helps families facing homelessness throughout Massachusetts and inspires us all to achieve greatness together.

This piece was written by Andrea Drag, a regular contributor to Horizons’ blog.

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