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Niagara University president to run Turkey Trot with a good cause in mind

LEWISTON – The Rev. James J. Maher, Niagara University president, has been putting on his running shoes to join in a number of community-related running events since he took office one year ago.

On Thanksgiving, he will again hit the pavement to join the 119th Turkey Trot in Buffalo, his first time running the 8K race. Maher will be one of 14,000 expected in this year’s race.

“I’m doing (the race) on my own and I am hoping that we could use this as an opportunity to raise a little money for the emergency food program in Niagara Falls – the Heart, Love and Soul soup kitchen,” Maher said. “Christmas gets so commercialized. This is such a great holiday. It’s centered around a meal and being a family. That’s probably what’s most important in life – sustenance in both ways. And it is probably a good time to think about people in our area, for those who it is not a great holiday, those who live in poverty and live in hunger.”

Maher also ran to support Heart, Love and Soul this past April, instituting and participating in a 5K “Run Against Hunger” on the Niagara University campus. More than $1,600 was raised for Heart, Love and Soul.

But his runs to fight hunger and poverty go back much farther.

Maher had worked at St. John’s University for 23 years before coming to Niagara and was very involved as a board member in that university’s Bread and Life program, the second-largest emergency food provider in New York City. He ran in 11 New York City Marathons and established a “Run for Hunger” to raise money and awareness about poverty and hunger in the area.

In June, he became the first university president in the western region to participate in the Law Enforcement Torch Run and ran six miles with the “Flame of Hope.”

Maher said this will be his first chance to run in the YMCA Turkey Trot, which is billed as one of North America’s oldest consecutively run foot races, dating back to 1896.

“I love the area and it’s a great opportunity to be part of something that’s just so established as an event. I’m really excited about the opportunity,” Maher said.

He said he has encouraged students, alumni and members of the university to also be part of the race.

“But the most important thing they can do is not only run, but contribute and remember people who live in poverty, not just at Thanksgiving, but all year round,” he said.

Those who would like to donate to Maher’s run on behalf of Heart, Love and Soul can make donations online at or via check or money order payable to Father’s Turkey Trot Run, c/o Niagara University, P.O. Box 2039, Niagara University, NY 14109

This year’s Turkey Trot is a sellout. It will be dedicated to longtime race director Tom Donnelly, who died unexpectedly on Nov. 15 at 61. Donnelly, an avid runner, had been the race director for 12 years and was a longtime participant. He is credited with leading the race to its current popularity.