John Almeda completed the 2019 Boston Marathon overcoming unseasonable heat, an unfamiliar city and a course lined with zealous fans. John, who has non verbal autism, qualified for Boston at the 2018 California International Marathon. John is accompanied at each race by his coach, Darren Morgan, to help keep John on pace and on route. Eppie’s Wellness Foundation funded Darren’s travel expenses so he was able to be with John throughout John’s Boston Experience. Jim Geary, an EWF board member and a veteran of 24 Boston Marathons, was in Boston and assisted John, John’s mom Vanessa Bieker and Darren by helping them navigate the complex logistics of lodging, packet pickup, getting to the race start and returning from the finish. According to Geary, “compared to finding the right place for packet pickup and getting to the start line, running the race itself is easy”. Vanessa Bieker, who has established the Fly Brave Foundation which offers employment training and social activities for adults with developmental disabilities, was pleased that Darren was able to be with John: “I am so grateful that Eppie’s Wellness Foundation made it possible for Darren to be in Boston for John. That and Jim’s help made John’s Boston experience wonderful.”
John was the runner for the Therapeutic Recreation Services Great Team for the final Eppie’s Great Race in 2018. Eppie’s Wellness Foundation and Eppie’s Great Race has provided support for Therapeutic Recreation Services for over thirty five years.