A 36-year-old Henniker man and former NEC Chartwells employee will be competing in the Boston Marathon on April 17, 2023. Charlie Helfrich is fundraising for Special Olympics New Hampshire (SONH). The organization’s goal is to raise $26.2 thousand. So far, Helfrich and two other fundraisers have collected nearly $10,000.
Helfrich is a Special Olympics athlete; he is running the marathon with mentor and friend, Eric Tinker, a chairperson on the SONH Board of Directors. They started training for this event in December, but they have been running and competing with one another for years.
“I met Charlie in 2019 when they were looking for somebody to partner up with him at the first sprint triathlon at the Summer Games,” Tinker said.
Summer Games is a Special Olympics event hosted at the University of New Hampshire. Helfrich has been involved with Special Olympics since he was in high school. He’s been on the board of directors, been an ambassador at different speaking events and competed in the Special Olympics World Games in Greece.
“He’s been an athlete for Special Olympics his whole life,” Tinker said.
Helfrich and Tinker have run two half marathons together and three sprint triathlons. Last summer they competed in the Special Olympics USA games in Orlando, Florida, where they won a silver medal. After running the two half marathons together, they decided the next challenge was to complete a full marathon.
“Charlie’s dream has always been to run the Boston Marathon,” Tinker said.
Helrich and Tinker are joined by Thomas Cantara in raising money for SONH. Cantara has been a Special Olympics athlete for over 20 years, this is his fifth time running the Boston Marathon.
“I first competed in 1999 in swimming, so I’ve been part of the program on and off for a while,” Cantara said.
Cantara says that the Special Olympics program is centered around coming together as one and building athletes up through sports. He says that unity is a big thing for him and the program. Helfrich and Cantara have experienced many opportunities through Special Olympics.
“Raising this money will give other athletes the opportunity like that down the road, whatever their interest is, to be able to do it. In a way it kinda makes our dreams come true, it would be nice for other athletes to have that happen to them,” Cantara said.
Every Saturday, Helfrich and Tinker complete their trainings by doing a long-distance run.
“Two weeks ago, we did a 20-mile run up to Bradford and back,” Helfrich said.
Tinker said that they started at 10 miles and worked their way up to 20. In the last three or four months they’ve been able to improve their mile time by three minutes.
Helfrich and Tinker do have a goal time for finishing the Boston Marathon, but their ultimate goal is to finish the race. Helfrich says his goal is 4.5 hours, Tinker says he would be very happy if they finished in five.
Helfrich’s go-to running snack is either a kind bar or a clif bar, specifically the chocolate one.
To donate to Special Olympics NH, visit sonh.org and access the fundraiser on the home page.