CONWAY — Robert S. Graustein II never met his grandfather, Navy Lt. Cmdr. Robert S. Graustein, who was killed in Vietnam on Dec. 21, 1972, but on Saturday, July 28, the 15-year-old from North Conway never felt closer to him.
Bobby, running in memory of his grandfather for the second year in a row, was among more than 2,000 people to participate in the ninth annual Run to Home Base, presented by New Balance at Fenway in support of Home Base, a Red Sox Foundation and Massachusetts General Hospital Program.
The 9K run and 5K run/walk begins outside Fenway Park and ends with participants crossing home plate. Participants raise necessary funds for the clinical care and support provided by Home Base and its mission, “to heal the invisible wounds for Post-9/11 veterans, service members and their families. Invisible wounds include post-traumatic stress, traumatic brain injury and other issues associated with the deployment cycle.”
Running in the 5K this year in a field of 1,039 athletes, Graustein was 12th overall in a time of 23:59. The youngest finisher in the first dozen runners, he was third out 72 runners in the 14-19 age group. He ran a 7:44 per mile pace. Last year, he ran in the 9K.
“Bobby saw (Run to Home Base) while watching a game, that’s what started the process then they asked #whodoyourunfor, this is what changed the outlook for him,” Bethanne said of her son’s desire to run.
Bobby not only ran in memory of his grandfather but also honored family friends and relatives by placing their names, “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,” on the back of his shirt.
The late Lt. Cmdr. Graustein graduated from the Naval Academy in 1961 as an operations officer of the VA-75. He was subsequently stationed at the naval air station Oceana on the USS Saratoga, at which point he deployed to Vietnam as part of the Sunday Punchers squadron. His A-6 plane was shot down while he was involved in a bomb strike on Kien Ann Airfield.
“I run for (my grandfather) because I was never given the chance to meet him,” said Bobby, when asked about his grandfather and why he chose to participate in the Run to Home Base. “I am named after him.”
Bobby far exceeded his fundraising goal of $2,500, collecting $2,750 in pledges as of Tuesday. Last year, in his first time running, he set a goal of $1,500, and flew by that mark with $2,640.
For many participants the Run to Home Base is much more than a race and more than a fundraising event.
Participating for the eighth time in the race, Jessica Dolan, 37, of Kearsarge wrote on her donations page, “(A)s most of you know by now this event and this organization hold a special place in my heart.”
She signed up the first year thinking it would be fun to run at Fenway Park, but wrote: “I had no idea what I was getting into. From running in the morning to attend a wedding in the afternoon to skipping my graduation last year to make it back from Illinois in time, this event is something that I won’t miss because I now understand better than ever the impact.”
“Last summer, I spent my elective rotation on the inside of the Home Base Program, where I truly had a very rewarding experience,” Dolan wrote. “I met several participants, learning of their struggles and their fight to return to a normal life. This gave me more motivation to spread the word about Home Base and to do all I could to raise more funds and more awareness. It is with all of your help that we are able to provide more service to these deserving men and women who have sacrificed so much.”
Dolan ran in the 9K race this year (she did the 5K last year). In the 9K, which had 1,197 finishers, Dolan was 1,055th in 1:07:16. She averaged a 12:02 per mile pace.
Like Graustein, Dolan set a high fundraising goal and exceeded it. Her goal was $2,500; she soared well beyond that mark, reaching $3,825 as of Tuesday.
Also participating were:
• Tessa Holmes, 27, of Wolfeboro, also ran the 5K, finishing 513th in 42:51. Holmes set a goal of $800, and raised $850.
• Tara Watt, 35, now of Manchester, and her mom, Trish Watt, 62, of North Conway, finished the 5K together in 55:10 and 55:11, respectively, in 766th and 767th place.
Trish Watt set and met her goal of raising $550 in pledges. Tara Watt also set a goal of $550, and surpassed the mark by $40.
“The Red Sox are my mom and I’s favorite, so needless to say, crossing home plate with her by my side last week is simply priceless,” Tara said on Facebook.