More so than most, Gina Merante understands that teamwork makes the dream work. The eleventh of fourteen children, this recent college graduate grew up playing soccer with her siblings as teammates and her father as coach. In middle school, Gina traded soccer for track – which was later swapped out for cross country in her sophomore year of high school.
Cross country introduced Gina to both a love for running and two friends – Samantha and Megan – who would stay with her in the years to come. Although she didn’t have the time to continue with a team in college, Gina still managed to stash a half marathon and two full marathons under her belt. Now, as she prepares to complete her third marathon, Gina can count on her former teammates to help her cross the finish line.
Joining Samantha and Megan in running the TCS NYC Marathon, Gina knows she'll be ready for whatever the five boroughs throw at her. “Training together helps a lot. It makes it all seem that much more doable,” she said. In fact, Gina has been more than ready to tackle the streets of New York City for years. “I had been trying to get into the marathon for four years, so when Megan asked us about running with Team Mission United, I was in shock,” she recalled. For Gina, the opportunity to race with Team Mission United fulfills a longtime dream – an experience made even better by the fact that she gets to support a cause so close to her heart.
"The Long Island Insurance Community is delighted to sponsor Gina as she prepares to run the 2017 TCS NYC Marathon," said Gloria Gargano, Co-Chair of Long Island Insurance Community and United Way Board Member. "She, in addition to Megan and Samantha, have really shown a commitment to the Mission United cause, although they were only recently introduced to the program. Their dedication is admirable, and we all look forward to cheering them on in November."
As a relative of several veterans, Gina understands the importance of supporting those who have served as they readjust to civilian life. Her family’s history of service includes both of her grandfathers – the influence of whom led two of her older sisters, Denise and Jennifer, to join the Army and Navy respectively. “My sisters were deployed when I was very young, and I never really understood what they were doing,” she remembered. Now, however, she has a better understanding of the service they provide as her other sister, Mary, with whom she grew up closest is currently active in the Army.
Gina appreciates the opportunity to help those like her sisters. “I am honored to run for Team Mission United. Everyone keeps thanking us for what we are doing, but we really should be thanking veterans for all they’ve done for us,” she said. Though the prospect of meeting fundraising goals has intimidated Gina in the past, she intends to bring in as much support for Mission United as possible. This support will go towards programs such as career training at United way’s state-of-the-art E3 SmartBuilding Training Center and emergency financial aid for some of the over 100,000 veterans currently residing on Long Island.
These programs aim to assist as many veterans in need – along with their families – as possible. Oftentimes, Gina noted, people don’t realize just who this community includes. “I think when you say ‘veterans’ people picture older generations. But I met so many veterans in college – young veterans. It amazes me that they go through so much and still go back to school, and accomplish so much,” she said.
With her dedication and commitment to the cause, Gina has no time for naysayers. She warned, “If you tell me I can’t do something, I’ll make sure that I make it happen.” By the looks of it, nothing but a few months stands in the way between her and that finish line.