Born to Run: Junior’s Half Marathon Raises $9K for Children in Guatemala

Olivia O’Malley ’22 turned 16 this month, but instead of collecting the usual presents from family and friends, she asked them to help her raise money for those in need.

O’Malley raised nearly $9,000, ran and organized a half marathon – all to benefit School the World, a nonprofit that fights extreme poverty by bringing education to the world’s poorest children.

Inspired by Oak Knoll’s virtual Run as One event in May where O’Malley ran a 10K, she set her sights higher when her second service trip with School the World, originally scheduled this summer to Guatemala, was canceled due to COVID-19. O’Malley wanted to raise money for the organization, even though her trip was canceled.

So, she decided to donate proceeds from her half-marathon directly to School the World.

“I created such strong bonds with the children in the school I built on my trip, and I hope to be able to see them again next year,” said O’Malley, who is already looking forward to traveling back to Guatemala next year.

Before last year’s trip, she raised triple her initial fundraising goal of $3,600 and ultimately raised $10,000. These proceeds helped build new school classrooms and playgrounds in Guatemala’s rural and impoverished areas.

“Fundraising is especially important to me because of the children I had the pleasure of meeting last year in Guatemala,” said O’Malley. “Their classrooms have no electricity and they barely have textbooks. It is humbling to see how much they care about their education and the lengths they would go just to be able to attend school. Going to a community with so much need made me really appreciate the opportunities I have been granted because of my education.”

To fundraise for her School the World service trips, O’Malley sent out emails to friends and family, while also spreading the word via her social media channels.

Last year, she also held a bake sale, but under the COVID-19 conditions, all fundraising conditions this year were online.

“I am so grateful to have such a supportive group of friends and family members,” said O’Malley, who first heard about School the World a few years ago through another Oak Knoll family.

This past year during Oak Knoll’s Service Day, O’Malley presented about her School the World service trip to Guatemala to educate her classmates on the organization and encourage others to get involved.

During the school year, O’Malley has helped with an equipment drive her charity-oriented family brought to her hometown of Summit.

The organization – Level the Playing Field – takes used or new sporting equipment and distributes it to disadvantaged families and schools along the East Coast.

O’Malley plans to continue helping with this sports equipment drive at Oak Knoll in the years ahead.

“Oak Knoll has definitely contributed to my love of service work,” she said. “I’ve always wanted to help those in need and Oak Knoll’s incorporation of service into their curriculum definitely helped me pursue my interest in helping others.”