Leading the Way

Katelyn Burrell ‘never gave up’

On Sept. 13, Katelyn Burrell found herself at Fenway Stadium compelled by her family motto “never give up,” and reflecting on how far her family had come since a near-death accident her dad experienced a few years ago.

Katelyn’s dad, Philip Call, had run in more than 10 marathons including the Boston Marathon by 2014, but he also had a dream to hike the Appalachian Trail by himself at age 65. Instead of looking at the obstacles ahead, he reminded himself of his family motto and began making his way on the legendary trail in March of 2014. Not too far into this hike, though, Katelyn’s father free-fell 50 feet off a cliff. Rafters nearby saw the fall and quickly came to the rescue, after which he was airlifted to a Tennessee hospital with multiple rib fractures and internal injuries. Seven surgeries and a month in the hospital, Katelyn’s dad was discharged and taken to Maine Med.

“He felt like he was letting our family down,” said Katelyn. “But he couldn’t wait to get back out there again.”

As a former Vietnam veteran, her dad lived by the saying “adjust, adapt and overcome,” and those words motivated him as he recovered. Walking again was the first obstacle he overcame. As a family, they decided to set a “bold goal” to participate in the Trek Across Maine, a 180-mile, three-day bike ride across the state. Running was out of the question because of the impact on his legs, but biking was achievable. The trek was extremely emotional along with a torrential down pour on the last day. But as the family had done so many times before, they pushed through to accomplish a goal that was pivotal to Philip’s recovery.

“It was a huge accomplishment, but I knew I wasn’t done,” Katelyn said. “Dad and I had always talked about completing the Boston Marathon together, so I knew I’d run it for him, even if he couldn’t be by my side.”

To race in the Boston Marathon, you have to qualify or be sponsored by a charity. Katelyn selected the Red Sox Foundation in honor of her dad because it’s his favorite sports team. Shortly after applying, she received an acceptance email that she could run on behalf of the organization.

“I called my dad right away. Within seconds, both of us were in tears. What better way to race, then with my dad’s favorite team on my running bib. My dad never had a bib when he ran the Boston Marathon, so I wore mine proudly for him. He was my inspiration.”

Katelyn raised over $6,000 for the Red Sox Foundation and her whole family watched her cross the finish line.

When she found out she’d be recognized at a Red Sox games, her family was there cheering her on again.

“We celebrated life that night,” said Katelyn. “We are constantly celebrating life because it’s too short. My family lives by our motto to never give up, and my dad is here to prove it. He continues to do the things he loves at 68!”

Katelyn’s father is hiking the Appalachian Trail once again. He’s completed the trail in Georgia and Vermont and has sections of Tennessee, New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Maine to go. When he isn’t hiking, he and Katelyn’s mom are training with Katelyn for the next great challenge.

Katelyn’s looking forward to running the Boston Marathon again in 2018 with the Red Sox Foundation. Each member is asked to set a “bod goal” of raising $7,000 for the charity. To learn more about the Red Sox Foundation, click here for Katelyn’s personal link.