Colin and Stephanie Mathers, Irish expats living in Queens, are running the 2013 New York City Marathon to raise funds for the Rory Staunton Foundation, a local charity making international waves in their efforts to raise awareness about sepsis.
In April 2012 Ciaran and Orlaith Staunton’s son Rory got a cut while playing basketball with his friends. Within days he had died from sepsis, an inflammation caused by severe infection, which had gone undiagnosed. The Mathers have joined forces with the foundation to help raise awareness of the leading pediatric killer in the world, which 60 percent of Americans have never heard of.
The Mathers said they chose the Rory Staunton Foundation because they know the Staunton family and as they're the parents of eight children the story of the 12-year-old’s sudden death really “hit home” for them. The couple, who live in Maspeth, Queens, have seven boys and one girl, aged between five and 16.
Colin told IrishCentral “When Ciaran son died it shocked us all.
“We had been looking for a way to help the Foundation anyway. I think the fact that we have eight children also meant Rory’s death hit us hard. We were struck by how suddenly it happened and the fact that it could happen anytime to anyone.”
Colin continued, “We had never heard of sepsis before Rory’s death. I know there was a young fella in the Shannon Gaels who took very sick months earlier and I believe it was something similar. He was lucky enough that it was caught and treated.
“Since we’ve been fundraising for the foundation, we’ve been sending out posters and flyers and emails to people and they’re telling us the exact same thing, they never heard tell of it, they didn’t know it existed, they didn’t realize what a killer it is. It’s actually scary.”
Orlaith Staunton told IrishCentral “We’re delighted they’ve chosen to raise awareness and funds for our foundation. I’m just blown away that they find the time, with eight kids. They’re putting up posters all over the community, and raising all this money and all with eight kids. It’s amazing.”
As if caring for such a big brood was not enough they are also hugely active in the New York GAA community. Colin, who is Chairman for the Shannon Gaels GAA, explained that he became acquainted with Ciaran while seeking funding from New York City for a GAA field over the past few years. Now the Shannon Gaels have 500 members and the Mathers are still hugely involved.
“He's the chairman of the Shannon Gaels and she trains the underage team, probably one of the most difficult teams to train because you’re running around after them, and she’s the club’s entertainment officer. I don’t know where they get the stamina” Orlaith said.
“I think it’s absolutely great that they’re doing it for the Rory Staunton Foundation because it makes it a real community effort. We’re delighted to have them on board.”
This year Colin and Stephanie will run their first marathon. Colin, who is originally from County Armagh, and moved to the US in 1997, works in construction for the New York company Navillus.
When asked how he managed to get in any training he said “I find it a little more difficult, with everything else, trying to do work and trying to fit the training in. I find myself going out running in all hours of the night and all hours of the early morning trying to fit it in. I don’t get out as much as I probably should.”
He said his wife, Stephanie, from County Down, manages to sneak in a few more hours. “Now that the last of the children are full time at school, she finds a couple of hours to head out and do it,” Colin explained.
With the New York City Marathon looming (Nov 3) their training has really stepped up.
“Right now 18 miles is the long run in training. Last Sunday we did that, 18 miles, then we headed out to the Bronx, to grab some brunch, before the under-16 football game,” said Colin.
The astounded Rory Staunton Foundation are certainly appreciative of their hard work, amazing “stamina” and efforts to spread awareness. The Foundation has already achieved a great deal in just over a year.
So far they have seen a change to New York State law, seeing the Rory Regulations introduced. This new mandate means every hospital in the state must adopt aggressive procedures to identify sepsis patients. The foundation has given testimony in the US Senate and hopes to see these regulations become standard across the United States, and worldwide.
Orlaith added “It’s been great. It’s been hard work but it’s been worthwhile work. We’re already really seeing results.”
Stephanie (left) Colin (center) plus eight - the whole Maspeth Mathers crew