By Ree Averett (with input from Bev Shihara) While we knew that Peter Wingfield, as one of the Team UNICEF runners, was invited to a pasta party at UNICEF’s office on Friday night, Bev and I were surprised when we were included in the invitation. After some tense moments in which it looked liked Peter would have to work on Thursday and would miss the pasta party on Friday night, his shooting schedule was changed. He would be filming in Vancouver Wednesday and flying into New York Thursday. This event proved to be one of the highlights of the weekend for us and a very profound experience for Peter. Bev and I joined Peter Friday evening for the taxi ride down to Maiden Lane in Lower Manhattan’s financial district where most offices, including UNICEF, were closed for the night. We finally located the open door and a receptionist waiting to check us in. We were directed to the elevator and rode upstairs to their office meeting room which was all set up for the evening’s function. It was a buffet style affair with pans of pasta, salad and bread ready to go. Bev and I shared a table with Kate Weber, who has been our contact at UNICEF for several years, while Peter took the opportunity to mingle with some of the other runners and mix a bit. While there were forty runners on Team UNICEF, less than half of them made it to the pasta dinner. We met Kirsten Sheldon, Manager of Volunteers and Partnerships. Her office was responsible for spearheading Team UNICEF’s inaugural presence at the NY Marathon and managing the donations. We chatted briefly with her, but since she and Rachael Samson were the hostesses of the evening, there wasn’t a lot of time to talk. Peter has talked in his blog about Lisa Szarkowski’s impassioned speech (see Peter’s blog). What Peter didn’t mention that touched everyone deeply was that UNICEF had just lost one of their staff in an explosion in Pakistan on Tuesday. Lisa fought back tears when speaking of the tragedy that occurred when a hotel that housed many UN workers was attacked by a car bomber, but she wanted to focus on the positive efforts…how the runners were calling attention to UNICEF’s mission and raising money that helped so many people in more ways than the runners could possibly know. Even though we didn’t know who the victim was, we knew that it was a colleague of these people who were working so hard to change things. Another UNICEF employee was killed shortly after this. These two deaths underscore the dangers of trying to aid children at risk in countries where fighting is prevalent and the terrorists don’t care who they kill. The other thing that surprised us was that UNICEF is not a heavily funded or supported organization by the United Nations. It was founded 60 years ago to handle children’s issues following the war and once that was done, the UN wanted to disband this group. But the people involved then saw the need for such an organization and fought to continue the work that it had thus far accomplished. They were eventually given permission to do so, but without UN funding. So it has been private and corporate funding that has allowed UNICEF to continue. As Lisa put it, they fought for their existence and they continue to fight to accomplish their mission to save children around the globe. Their offices are small and their staff few in number in this New York office. They have a few paid staffers in various countries, but they do so much of their work through local volunteers who are willing to work to change their circumstances and improve their communities. It was a powerful message. Following that, Kirsten and Rachael handed out the supporter bags to each of the athletes. These included blue and white pompoms and bright blue tee shirts. Since we were expecting several supporters to join us in cheering Peter on, we added some extras to our bag. For the first time, we saw the PWFC/Project Edan logo on the shirt and were thrilled that it was prominently displayed on the shoulder. Proud as we were, I think both of us were also a little shocked and saddened that the PWFC was the only sponsor for this team. When we mentioned this to Kirsten, she said that this was UNICEF’s inaugural New York marathon and that the mechanism just wasn’t in place to go out and actively pursue corporate sponsorship but she saw this changing with future events. When the athletes gathered in the adjoining room for a group photo, Ree took the opportunity to get a photo of the team. Already a bond between these athletes was beginning to form and for them their common goal wasn’t just running the marathon, but bringing the awareness of UNICEF’s mission to others. They were part of something that was greater than themselves and their courage and determination to run 26.2 miles is only a reflection of the greater courage and determination of all the volunteers across the globe who are working to bring hope for life to children whose future is terribly uncertain. Both of us, along with Peter, were very proud and humbled to be part of this gathering of dedicated people. We are extremely pleased that the PWFC and Project Edan are a part of this amazing endeavor. Meeting the UNICEF Team at the Pasta Dinner