The best romantic relationships often start out as friendships. When Anamarie Francisco first met Alex Palios through a mutual friend, they found they had many things in common. The two quickly discovered they enjoyed a shared passion for running. They also bonded over mutual interest in the nonprofit foundations they represented. But it was a common understanding of love and loss that truly brought the couple together, cementing their relationship in a way that others may not fully comprehend. Anamarie explains, “I say it time and time again, but there is an immediate connection that happens when you meet people in your life that have been affected by the loss of a loved one. Going through a loss at a young age really affects who you are as a person.”
As the pair got to know each other, Anamarie and Alex shared details of the tragic losses they had experienced, and found comfort in being with someone who could understand their own circumstances. Alex’s father, Louis Palios, passed away in November, 2012, after an eleven month battle with pancreatic cancer.
The pain of losing a loved one at a young age is something that Ana understands on a deep level. “In 2007, my younger sister passed away from a very rare disease called Cockayne Syndrome.” This rare form of dwarfism kept Anamarie’s sister from following a normal developmental path and eventually led to her death at the tender age of 12.“A few years later, my aunt passed away from pancreatic cancer on the same day my sister had died,” Anamarie adds. She enjoyed a very close with her aunt and was deeply impacted by the loss. When it comes to losing a loved one to a horrific illness, Ana adds “We are all in the same club that we don’t want to be in, but we all have this understanding of life that we share. It’s kind of an ironically amazing thing.”
Inspired by Loss to Help Others
Anamarie and Alex have been motivated by their experiences to make a difference in the world through both paid and volunteer positions with nonprofit charities. Alex is a board member of Project Purple, which allows him to honor his father’s memory on a daily basis. Anamarie’s desire to volunteer and give back was first inspired by her sister’s lifelong illness Growing up watching my sister struggle, I became very aware of the fragility of life. It made me very humble,” she explains, adding, “My sister faced so many challenges and she taught me life is short.”
Anamarie volunteered frequently as a young person. She enjoyed knowing she was making a difference through working with charities. After completing college, she took a job with the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s Team in Training.
Running to Help Others
Though she had not been a serious runner previously, Alex and Anamarie’s co-workers at the Lymphoma Society both encouraged her to keep training. “Doing a marathon seems kind of crazy. My younger self never would have thought this was possible.” She ran her first 5k while in college and completed her first half-marathon in 2012. In 2014, she ran the Baltimore Half-Marathon with the Project Purple team.
After running with the teams and volunteering at several Project Purple events over the last few years, Anamarie decided to run her first full marathon for Project Purple. Now a racing veteran, she chose the New York City Marathon as her event. She says, “I’ll tell you this: you cannot watch the New York City Marathon or go to a Project Purple Dinner without feeling inspired to run. I’ve met several people through Project Purple who have shared their stories with me, and I felt so compelled to participate.”
Why Not Now?
The decision to run a full marathon was not something Anamarie took lightly. However, after watching Alex complete the New York City Half-Marathon for Project Purple, in March, 2016, Anamarie was inspired to take the plunge. She has always had the full marathon on her bucket list, and she decided signing up would commit her to following through with her goals. She explains, “I truly believe that there is no “right” time to ever do anything, so why not now? Signing up and saying YES is half the battle, and I know it is nothing in comparison to those who are fighting for their lives. The New York City Marathon is one of the largest marathons in the world, and I cannot wait to be a part of it!”
Putting the ‘Fun’ in Fundraiser
Anamarie set lofty fundraising goals from the outset. While she has raised money for charity before, she knew this time around she wanted to do something creative to inspire people to give. She coordinated a charity date auction in New York City which ultimately raised over $5000 for Project Purple.
“I had 7 bachelorettes and 4 bachelors who were auctioned off with their unique dating packages. Each contestant mingled with the event guests, and convinced others to bid on them in exchange for a fun date! Thanks to months of marketing and word of mouth, more than 100 people attended. Guests bid on dates, purchased raffle tickets, and donated to my fundraiser. It was an incredible night!”
Anamarie has approached her training and fundraising with the eye and heart of an entrepreneur. She recently left her position with the National Kidney Foundation to pursue her own business full-time. “Crafted by Anamarie” offers hand lettering, modern calligraphy and creative planning services for weddings and events. “In so many ways I believe that training and running a marathon works hand in hand with building a business. If I look back at the past few months, my business has aligned so well with my training. Both marathoners and entrepreneurs need to develop a strategy, execute, and do whatever it takes to get them to the finish line,” she explains. “I am extremely motivated and when I have a goal, I will do whatever it takes to achieve it.”
No one achieves success entirely on their own, however, and Anamarie recognizes the importance of community. She notes that having a terrific support system has helped her in training, raising money and in taking the plunge to pursue her professional dreams. She adds, “Thanks to my boyfriend, my family, and friends, I am more than halfway towards my goal of raising $10K for Project Purple, and am getting closer to it every day. They have also been a huge part of my success in my business – supporting me through every challenge and milestone. I could not do any of this without them!”
Please make a donation to Anamarie’s Project Purple fundraiser at the following link:
To check out Anamarie’s business and see the special calendar she made for Project Purple, please follow this link: