Niles runner raises $5,900 for Big Brothers Big Sisters

Published 5:56 pm Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Jesse Sallak, of Niles, ran in the Boston Marathon to raise money for Big Brothers Big Sisters. (Submitted photo)

Jesse Sallak, of Niles, ran in the Boston Marathon to raise money for Big Brothers Big Sisters. (Submitted photo)

After what took place at last year’s Boston Marathon, defiance motivated many of the 36,000 runners who “took back the finish line” April 21.

This year’s Patriots’ Day race featured 9,000 more runners than 2013 making the journey from Hopkinton to the finish in front of the public library on Boylston Street to celebrate the resilience of “Boston Strong.”

But Southwestern Michigan College graduate Jesse Sallak of Niles thought locally while acting globally, turning his first Boston Marathon into a charitable fundraiser for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Berrien and Cass counties.

For Sallak, vice president of its board, his 5:34:18 time took a back seat to another number, the $5,220 he raised for BBBS.

“The bombings were not the key factor for me,” said Sallak, 26, a 2005 Niles High School graduate who attended SMC and Ferris State University to earn his 2009 business administration degree.

“I thought this could be a way to raise awareness and funds in a fun way,” said Sallak, who has been volunteering with the organization for four years. “It’s exciting to be part of something in our community — especially an organization as great as BBBS. I couldn’t think of a better cause to support than one investing love and time into the youth of our community. This is my small way of investing in our community. Of course, it takes money to accomplish our mission, but none of that would be possible without the amazing mentors and volunteers who give of their time and talent to make this program so successful and worthwhile.”

Sallak has worked for VantagePointe Financial Group in Mishawaka, Ind., since February 2009 — the last year he ran a marathon.

He and his wife, Jamie (Wetmore), who also attended SMC, have a year-old child.

Southwest Michigan’s harsh, polar vortex winter made running outdoors impossible, so Sallak trained at the Niles-Buchanan YMCA.

Sallak had been to Boston, a “neat historical city,” on business trips.

They rode the train from South Bend and “took it all in” through stories shared.

“It made for an amazing weekend,” he said. “I’d love to do it again.”

While finishing the Boston Marathon might complete the bucket list for some, Sallak earned his Ferris degree through SMC without ever setting foot on its Big Rapids campus.

“Someday,” he said.