SYOSSET, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — Former Olympian Bruce MacDonald helped generations of athletes achieve their dreams, and on Monday, many of those athletes were rooting for him.
As CBS2’s Carolyn Gusoff reported exclusively, they joined together to help their ex-coach, who recently lost everything he owns in a fire.
MacDonald, 87, has no children of his own, but he has an extended family made up of generations of athletes. They gathered Monday at the Long Island Sports Hub in Syosset to cheer on their onetime coach.
MacDonald’s house, and everything in it, burned in a fire. He had no insurance.
“All the clothing you see all has been donated,” he said.
Mementoes from a storied career were lost. MacDonald — a pioneer in race-walking — competed in three Olympics and later coached and started Port Washington’s cross-country track team.
“He’s just a spectacular coach, and as a result, my sister and I still run,” said former student Heather
His athletes — some of them Olympians themselves — raised nearly $70,000 for him. On Monday, they raffled off Olympic gear to add to that sum.
“He always cares about you as an athlete giving back to your community,” said national champion racewalker Loretta Schuellein-McGovern. “That’s why these people are here today.”
“Without him, you know, who knows how many other people might not have found track,” added Olympic race-walker Maria Michita.
Coach Mac, as everyone calls him, was at a loss for words.
“I would never imagine the support,” he said.
MacDonald’s steps aren’t what they used to be. But he still teaches kids winning lessons.
“One thing that I never wanted to do was never to quit,” MacDonald said.
And he is not giving up now.
“I’m 87 and (some might say), ‘Oh no, you should be at home sitting in a chair watching television,’” he said. “I would rather be rather be out on the field working with the kids.”
Supporters said the finish line is getting Coach Mac a permanent place to live. They said it’s the least they can do for someone whose walk through life touched so many others.
Coach Mac suffered smoke inhalation in the blaze. Firefighters rescued him through a bedroom window.