CONWAY — Bobby Graustein is on a mission to honor those who proudly served our nation and lost their lives in the line of duty. Among those was his grandfather, Lt. Cmdr. Robert S. Graustein, who was killed in Vietnam on Dec. 21, 1972.
Bobby, 16, never met his namesake but feels a special connection to the man he closely resembles.
“I run for my grandfather, Robert S. Graustein, who I am named after; he was a lieutenant commander stationed on the USS Saratoga,” Bobby explained. “My dad was only 10 years old when my grandfather was shot down on a night mission named the ‘Christmas Bombing.’”
On July 27, Bobby, the son of Bethanne and Robert Stephen Graustein of North Conway, will ltake part in the 10th annual Run to Home Base at Fenway Park in Boston, which benefits Home Base, a Red Sox Foundation and Mass. General program.
Last year, Bobby, a rising junior at Kennett High School, collected $2,640 in pledges and hopes to raise $4,000 this year. He has 13 days to meet his goal.
According to its website, Home Base’s biggest mission is dedicated to healing the invisible wounds for veterans of all eras, service members, military families and families of the fallen through world-class clinical care, wellness, education and research.
Jessica Dolan of North Conway is participating in the run for a ninth time, but this year she is running as an active member of the military, having joined the Army. She is stationed at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, and will fly to Boston the day before the run.
Dolan has raised $20,495 for the run over eight years. “This year, I’m just shy of $4,000, but I hope to blow that mark out of the water in the next two weeks and come in as the top active duty fundraiser,” she said. Her pledge page is tinyurl.com/yylr83o5.
Bobby, who works at Big Dave’s Bagels and Deli and Schartner Farms, spoke about his upcoming run at the Gibson Center for Senior Services on Tuesday.
“It is great to see a kid who is excited about helping others,” said Jill Reynolds, program director for the Gibson Center, said.
Runners choose a 5K or 9K course. Bobby ran the 9K in 2017 but opted for the 5K last year and will be running one again July 27.
“I enjoy running,” Bobby said. “I’d actually done a lot of runs before the (2017 run).”
While watching the Red Sox on television in 2016, Bobby saw an advertisement for Run to Home Base.
“I slowly got interested in it,” he said. “I asked if I could do it that year but it conflicted with something so I couldn’t do it then. The next year, my mom said we could. We did the lowest fundraising limit for that year, which was $1,000. I got up to $1,000 and kept going. I think I ended up at $2,000.”
Bobby is proud to do this run.
“My experience with Run to Home Base has been amazing,” he said. “Everyone has a different cause, and I enjoy hearing what or who they are running for. People are doing it just to help the veterans or have a whole bunch of family members they’re running for. I’ve met seem incredible people.”
Bobby, who plays football, alpine skis and lacrosse at Kennett, said each year there is a theme.
While the entire event is a highlight, a couple of things stand out for Bobby.
“When you get back (to Fenway Park) all of these military veterans are cheering you on,” he said. “Once you pass the finish line there’s a line because everyone is taking a picture at home plate. You get to stand next to the Green Monster and see all of the names of people who have signed it over the years. I touched it last year, it was really cool.”
Bobby not only runs in memory of his grandfather but wears the names of other relatives and family friends on his shirt: “Scott Graustein-Navy, Roy Andrews-Army, Paul Weld-Army, John Graustein-Army, David Terry-Navy, Ls1 Catherine Terry-Navy Active; Jason Turner-Navy; VT 1st Class Jacob Turner-Army Active, and Ray Gilmore Jr.-Army.”
“I wear that shirt every football game, too,” Bobby said. “It has a star on the back of it. Every (Run to Home Base) they give you a star from a retired U.S. flag, that’s one of the little, special things you get. I’ve got two of them now that I’ve put on special shirts.”
This won’t be Bobby’s last Run to Home Base.
“I want to do it as long as I can,” he said. “I look up to him because of how much he accomplished through his time. He became an Eagle Scout and graduated from the Naval Academy in the Class of 1961. I want to honor him.”
Dolan has spent the past year chronicling her story about running for the last eight years.
“I have been inspired by friends and family who have served, but this year I pay recognition to the Home Base program itself, as they are the ones that inspired me to join the military.”
She added: “I just really want to increase the awareness of what this great organization does for our service members, past and present. When it comes down to it, the event is not about crossing home plate at Fenway, it’s not how fast your run or what place you come in, it is about raising money and awareness for such an important organization.”