Richard Salonia was jogging around the track at Cardinal Spellman High School with school president Dan O’Keefe and asked why he was running 101 miles to raise money for the school’s athletics and activities program.
“He said he had the spirit and fi ght in him,” Salonia, the senior captain of Spellman’s football team, told CNY. “He would do anything for this school and we see it. Every day, we see him around the school and he’s really hardworking.”
Richard was inspired by mental toughness shown by O’Keefe, who completed 101 miles in 27 hours, 56 minutes on Sept. 23 and 24, to raise about $55,000 for the Bronx school.
“Even when the odds are against you, if you put your mind to it, you could do it,” said Richard, who ran over two miles along with O’Keefe. “You can make that comeback on the field or get an A on that paper.”
O’Keefe, who has worked at Spellman for 12 years and served as president since 2015, said the last 10 miles were tough, and the run left him exhausted.
The 57-year-old ultramarathoner was still a little sore when interviewed Sept. 28, but he did jog for about an hour before the start of school that morning.
O’Keefe said he completed the 101-mile journey to raise money and school spirit on homecoming weekend.
“That was more important than anything I did, it was getting the students involved,” O’Keefe said. “I could do that anywhere but doing it on the school track brings the attention to the school and to the students and gets them involved to build up school spirit.”
This was the third time O’Keefe used his ultramarathon skills to raise money for the school. In 2014, he ran 100 miles around the school track to raise money for the school’s athletics and activities program. In 2017, he completed 103.3 miles in Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx and Manhattan to raise money for the school’s financial aid program.
“It was a really good feeling knowing that it made a difference and it benefits the students,” he said. “It’s an example for them to not let anybody tell you something is impossible. Go out, do your best and try hard.”
Kyla Warren, a senior and student body president, jogged five laps around the track with O’Keefe.
“It was good to know that the administration cares so much to allow us the opportunity to assist him because he was doing it for us,” she said. “Mr. O’Keefe really doesn't have to do what he does for us because all of it is not in his job description. He’s willing to do that for us, and it really helps me know the administration really cares about us.”
Lauren Espinal, a senior captain of the volleyball team, completed two laps with the school president.
“Hard work is important and dedicating yourself to something is really important to me,” she said. “Seeing him do the 101 miles really inspired me. “I’m very thankful he did this for our athletics