Erin O'Brien at Friday's race expo at the Virginia Beach Convention Center (Photo by Rami Yoakum)
Erin O'Brien and her husband Wayne Brooks take part in the 8k race during 2016's Shamrock Marathon (Photo Submitted by Erin O'Brien)
Nothing inspires a person to work harder for a cause than knowing someone who has benefited from that cause.
Virginia Beach resident and native Erin O’Brien knows from personal experience that Children’s Hospital of the King’s Daughters and the assistance it offers to area children and families certainly qualifies as a worthy cause.
“One of my best friend’s daughters had her life saved by CHKD in the spring of 2016,” said O’Brien, who works as a realtor for Howard Hanna Real Estate Services in Virginia Beach, as well as being the Digital Marketing Trainer for the company’s Southeast Region.
With her friend’s experience serving as the “push” she needed, the fundraiser idea was born. An injury kept her from going all out in 2017, so this year’s race will be the real deal.
As of Thursday evening, O’Brien’s Miles for Smiles campaign had already topped $31,000.
O’Brien admits that she’s not overly athletic, and “especially not a runner.”
“Many people have said this is such a selfless act, but honestly it’s as selfish as it is selfless,” she said. “I’m not a real athlete, but for some crazy reason I want to be able to check a marathon off the list of to-dos.”
O’Brien ran a total of 26.2 miles on Sunday, and each mile represented one child “hero.”
“Twenty-two of the children are my friends’ children. Some are closer than others, but all are people that I know.”
In addition to her career in realty, O’Brien serves as the President of the Mermaid Circle of the Virginia Beach City Union, which itself raises money for CHKD and other local children’s organizations.
For the race, O’Brien wrote the names of all the children on her arms – 13 on each.
“When things get tough I’ll be able to look down and realize who I am running in honor of for that mile,” she said.
Technically, the funds O’Brien raises will be through the Howard Hanna Children’s Free Care Fund. Each year the various offices hold fundraising events with proceeds going to a children’s hospital in that community.
“Children are young and innocent and have to face these battles, big or small, and they deserve to have us in their corner fighting along side them, with them, and for them,” she said.
O’Brien graduated from Cox High School in 1998 and the University of Richmond in 2002. After graduation she worked for various pro football teams in PR and marketing; as an assistant to the head coach for the New York Jets; and as a Director of Football Operations for the Cleveland Browns.
She and her mother, Karen – a realtor for 32 years – make up the O’ Team, while her father William is Chief Judge of the Virginia Beach Circuit Court. In 2016 she married Wayne Brooks.
During this process, which has included building a website and sharing each child’s story on social media, the circumstances have become personal.
“I’m very familiar with the children’s stories and I know what I am running for,” she said. “These children are our future and we should give them every chance to build a bright future.”