By Peter Schwartz
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On Sunday, approximately 50,000 runners will take part in the annual New York City Marathon, a journey that will take the finishers on a 26.2-mile course through all five boroughs.
Some runners compete in the marathon because they are world-class runners and this is a marquee event. There are many others who run for recreational purposes. And there are those who run in memory of a loved one.
The marathon also features runners who are competing to raise money for charity, and that includes a team of runners representing i’mME, an organization dedicated to ending the orphan cycle and founded by former Jets wide receiver David Nelson and his younger brothers, Patrick and Daniel.
“It’s just crazy exciting,” said Nelson, a six-year NFL veteran who played with the Jets in 2013 and 2014. “Obviously it’s one of the most prestigious marathons in the world, if not the most prestigious marathon in the world. It’s an exciting time.”
Since the charity started in 2014, i’mME has raised over $1 million toward the initiative of giving orphan kids a family as well as a home, either via adoption or through orphanages. The organization is also committed to giving moms and dads the opportunity to keep their children instead of abandoning them or giving them to an orphanage.
“We’re trying to empower moms and dads who are at risk of losing their kids to get a job or getting an opportunity to keep their kids,” Nelson said.
Once would think that putting together a team to run in the marathon would be challenging for Nelson and his charity. Not only did they have to find individuals who can run 26 miles, but they also had to have the ability to generate donations.
As it turns out, when the organization reached out to those who had the ability to help, the answer was a resounding “yes.”
“We’re really excited about it, and it’s a tremendous opportunity for us,” Nelson said. “It’s usually very hard to find people to fundraise. It’s one thing to ask somebody to run and raise $10,000 or raise a good amount of money for your charity, but it’s another to ask them to also train and run 26 miles.”
While i’mME will have a very qualified team in the marathon Sunday, Nelson won’t actually be doing any running.
“No way,” he said. “Are you kidding?”
Nelson will be on the streets somewhere among the expected 1 million spectators cheering on the runners.
Nelson hasn’t officially retired from the NFL. He’s been staying in shape and keeping his cellphone on at all times just in case a team was looking for a receiver.
“I haven’t officially filed the (retirement) paperwork, but I’ve pretty much come to grips with the fact that it is time to move on,” he said. “I guess I’m unofficially retired, but I’ll probably sign those papers soon in the coming weeks.”
While Nelson is holding out hope that he gets a chance with an NFL team before he fills out the paperwork, he still follows the Jets because there are still some of his former teammates with Gang Green, including Eric Decker and Geno Smith. There are also connections on the Jets to his days with the Bills, such as quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick and offensive coordinator Chan Gailey, who was Nelson’s head coach in Buffalo.
“I keep my eye on them,” Nelson said. “They’re people that I have really connected with and made great relationships with in my first five years in the NFL are all in New York right now. I’m a Jets fan, so I stay in touch with those guys.”
In the meantime, Nelson is focused on his charity work, and that means coaching up his runners who will take part in Sunday’s New York City Marathon. Nelson and his brothers have done a tremendous job with their organization in helping to try to put an end to the orphan epidemic.
While many runners will be competing for prize money or to just set a personal best time, the team that will represent i’mME will be running to help fulfill the organization’s mission statement of bringing “the sustaining and empowering structure of family to the orphans of the world through care, prevention, and stewardship.”
For more information on i’mME, visit imme.org.
Don’t forget to follow Pete on Twitter at @pschwartzcbsfan. You can also follow @DavidNelson86, @imME_org, and @nycmarathon.