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Alyssa Shashaty doesn’t enjoy running. So why has she competed in 5K races in all 50 states, and why is she planning to run the Boston Marathon on April 16?

It turns out that Shashaty will gladly lace up her sneakers for a good cause. The freshman nursing major at Eastern Kentucky University is running the 26.2-mile trek from Hopkinton, Massachusetts, to Boston to raise money for the Military Friends Foundation. The 50 5Ks benefitted as many different charities.

Shashaty ran her first race at the age of 10 for Susan G. Komen for the Cure, after learning that her friend’s mom had breast cancer. Her next race took place her seventh-grade year in her hometown of Peabody, Massachusetts, and benefitted the locally based Progeria Foundation. She and her friends competed as Team 777: seven kids, in seventh grade, with a goal to raise $700.

The experience inspired her to race for charity in each of the 50 states, an endeavor she called her “#Roadto50.” Despite her athletic propensities, she is more passionate about the philanthropy opportunities that running provides her. “For me, running the race is not about being first or last or the time that you get, but what you can do for those who are not able to do it for themselves,” she said. St. Jude, Suicide Prevention, Boys and Girls Clubs of America, Melanoma, Red Cross and other organizations have benefitted from her efforts.

After completing her #Roadto50 in April 2017, running the Boston Marathon seemed a perfect way to celebrate. Shashaty’s choice of charity is in honor of her personal hero: her brother Nick, who serves in the United States Navy. Many of her other family members have also served in various branches in the military, and that makes the organization close to her heart. “It means a lot for me to run this race for The Military Friends Foundation. They are defending us each and every day, so whatever I can do to give back to them, I want to.”

In addition to running, Shashaty advocates for random acts of kindness. She believes that generosity does not have to be a large gesture but can be as simple as making someone smile. “My friends and I will buy flowers in Boston and pass them out to strangers,” she said. “It's good, it's fun, and you can truly turn someone’s day around.”

Shashaty loves the caring community she has found at EKU. She chose the school because of its notable programs in nursing and forensic science, her top choices for a major.

This school is the perfect fit for me, and I can’t wait to call it home for the next four years,” she said. During her first campus visit, she met Admissions staff members Bart Blankenship and Allison Bullins, who helped her feel comfortable on campus. “I am really happy with the choice I made and feel right at home.” 

Her sorority, Kappa Alpha Theta, and her club soccer team are also among her core supporters. Her sorority sisters have donated a total of $645. They also often transport her back and forth to the airport so she can visit home. When she told a club soccer coach about her endeavor, he donated $20 on the spot.

Her biggest encourager at EKU, however, is Stellina Mercadante, whom she calls her “best friend, roommate, sister, and coach.” She shared that Mercadante’s home and family have become her second home and family when she is unable to fly back home. Mercadante has even become Shashaty’s training buddy, even though Mercadante is not running in the Boston Marathon.

Shashaty is grateful for all the support from her EKU family, to whom she declared, “I couldn't have reached my goal without you.” Those who wish to support Shashaty can donate at until April 12.

— by Madison Harris, student writer, EKU Communications and Brand Management