Meet the “TCS New York City Marathon” Team Running for Experience Camps

On November 7th, an inspiring group of humans will be running the TCS New York City Marathon on behalf of Experience Camps for grieving children and we are so excited to introduce you to the team! They have been training like crazy (through harsh weather, mentally grueling moments, and the sorest of muscles) for months and have collectively raised on our behalf more than $80,000, surpassing the $75,000 goal! Go, team, go – we are so grateful for you! Want to support these superheroes? Donate here and cheer them on with us if you’re in NYC on the southwest corner of 111th street & 5th Ave starting at 12:00 p.m.

Mike Axelrod: I live in Long Beach, NY with my wife (Elana) and 18 month old daughter (Miriam). When I was 15 years old, I lost my dad. I remember vividly the loneliness, feeling like no one else could understand. I am so excited to be running the marathon in support of Experience Camps and play a small role in helping kids feel supported and connected when dealing with their loss. 

Lucas Bullerjahn: I grew up in Wellesley, MA and have been living in New York for the past 13 years – first in Manhattan, and just last year moved up to Ossining, NY with my wife Rachel and our pup Ruby. I’ve been involved with Experience Camps as a counselor since 2015. Not only do I volunteer at camp in memory of my mom, but she’s also my reason for running marathons (this will be my 3rd). She loved running and completed 20 marathons in her lifetime– including one on every single continent (Antarctica twice!)!  I’m so proud to bring these two important parts of my life together in the NYC Marathon this year.

Shari Bernstein: I am running my 6th NYC Marathon this year but this time is extra special because it’s my 1st time running with Team Experience Camps.  I’m a former Experience Camps volunteer and jump at any opportunity to support the cause in NYC with my friends. I’m so excited to be running 26.2 miles FTK, and cannot wait to see others supporting this org throughout the five boroughs!

Steven Chenal: I am running because I know first hand what Experience Camps does for kids. After the sudden loss of my wife Holly (see picture of her and my son Cooper), the first thing that came to my mind was how it would alter my son’s lives. Experience Camps provided a way for them to express their grief with their peers in a safe environment, while still challenging them to make the best of what their new world would be. When picking them up from camp I knew right away the impact camp had on them from their smiles. Camp showed my sons that they were not alone in the grief they felt and that there was a brighter future ahead of them.

Paul Fine: I’m originally from Ann Arbor, Michigan. I’m now a Professor of Integrative Biology at the University of California, Berkeley where I live with my wife Joanna and my kids Maria and Alex. I’m running in the 50th Annual NYC Marathon in the memory of my friend since childhood Chike McLoyd to benefit Experience Camps for grieving children. Chike lost his battle to lung cancer five years ago and his son Chenzi has really benefited from Experience Camps. It is an honor to run the marathon with my friend Garlen (Chenzi’s Mom) so that we can both raise money for this excellent organization.

Arielle Ingber:  I am so excited to run my first marathon on the Experience Camps team. I am inspired by the work of Experience Camps as someone who believes in the power of camp (spent 13 summers with my sleep away camp). I got involved with Experience Camps from a friend and volunteer at the NY Auction Event every year. I love running, especially in Central Park! I’ve lived on the Upper East Since for over 8 years. 

Garlen Capita: I’m an urban and landscape designer based in Philadelphia.  I’ve never run a full marathon before but started running longer distances as a way for me to control stress and cope with the loss of my late husband Chike who lost his battle to cancer at the age of 43. I found out about Experience Camps through our local grief group and summer 2021 was my son Chenzi’s third summer attending boys camp in Pennsylvania. I’m so thankful that for one week out of the year he is with other kids who get what it’s like to experience such profound loss. Camp has given him the skills to not only cope with grief but to flourish and have the amazing life that his dad Chike would have wanted for him. I am delighted to be fundraising and running the marathon with Paul Fine, my husband’s childhood friend who has been an amazing support for our family.

Brendan Finnegan: I’m so excited to run the NYC marathon with Experience Camps! As a musician, I facilitate group drumming as a recreational modality and have been so happy to volunteer and bring this program to Experience Camps in Pennsylvania. I’m running the marathon in honor of my father, who was a marathoner, and I lost when I was 16. Raising money to give children the opportunity for a week at camp where they are supported in community is really meaningful to me. 

Mike Heimann: I’m from San Diego, CA. I have thre boys (Evan, Dylan and Jake) who’ve attended Experience Camps in California for the last fiveyears. Volunteering to run the NYC Marathon, on behalf of Experience Camps, gives me an opportunity to help the organization that has given so much to my boys. I hope my participation allows for other grieving kiddos to attend camp and thrive in a similar way.

Nicole Merritt: I’m running so any child who wants to experience the magic of camp gets the opportunity. As I run my first marathon, I’ll be keeping close to my heart those who can’t, including my #1 fan – my Dad, Ralph, who died by suicide in 2010. I’m so excited to run the streets I’ve grown up on in the past decade for this life-changing organization very close to my heart.

Jesse Moss: I signed up for a “couch to marathon” moment in honor of Experience Camps and my brother Jordan who died in 2012. In the middle of my training, in May 2021, I found out that my best friend and mom, Meryll, had died. Since then, running has truly become a moment of peace and clarity in my day and an important part of my grieving process. I am proud to be running 26.2 #FTK, for my people, and for all of the amazing humans at Experience Camps. 

Eric Norris: I’m an Australian who’s been living and working in New York for the past 2.5 years.  I’ve always loved the challenge of long-distance events, I once walked 100km (60miles) in 24 hours to raise money for the Oxfam charity (an organization focused on the alleviation of global poverty). I genuinely love the Experience Camps mission, it’s truly unique (we don’t really have Summer Camps in Australia), and I love how much of a long lasting and meaningful impact it can have on the trajectory of someone’s life!

Tyler Schlesinger: I am running the marathon because I love running and recently moved to NYC. In addition, I have witnessed the magic of camp at both the Boys & Girls Experience Camps in California and hope to help make that experience possible for more campers!

Elana Siegel: I am running my second NYC Marathon, this time alongside my sister and cousin, in memory of some very loved family members and in support of some very special kids.  I am so excited to represent Experience Camps and can’t wait to cross the finish line FTK!

Jenna Siegel: I am a first-time marathoner! I call New York home and can’t wait to run the streets of all five boroughs #FTK and for Experience Camps. I’m running it in honor of my grandfather, grandmother, and aunt who all unfortunately passed away this past year. I am running alongside my sister, cousin, and colleague-turned-friend to challenge my mind, body, and soul to accomplish something I never thought possible. It’s a reminder that each challenge is an opportunity and each new day is a gift!