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Mark Donohue: Breaking the Silence About Stillbirth

On November 6, New York City firefighter and father of two Mark Donohue will race the five boroughs with a mission: to raise awareness about stillbirth in honor of his daughter Jane, whom he and his wife lost in February 2015.

Donohue is running the TCS New York City Marathon in support of the Star Legacy Foundation, a Minnesota-based organization that raises funding and awareness around stillbirth so that better technology, education, and research are available to families and healthcare providers.

After Jane’s death, Donohue and his wife, Amanda, channeled their grief into educating themselves about stillbirth. They learned that each year, an estimated 24,000 babies are delivered stillborn in the United States and that the causes of many stillbirths are unknown, which leaves grieving families with unanswered questions.

“Stillbirth is such a personal thing; people cringe at the mention of it,” says Donohue. “But people who have experienced stillbirth want to talk about it.”

It was talking about his own daughter’s stillbirth at a local hospital support group that helped Donohue and his wife build a relationship with the founder of Star Legacy Foundation. From there, Donohue established a New York Metro chapter of the organization in 2015 and organized two 5K runs, raising more than $136,000 for the cause. 

On November 6, Donohue will continue to open up the conversation around the sensitive topic. He will share stillbirth facts and statistics live on Facebook at the end of every mile of his 26.2-mile journey. “I’ve been practicing carrying extra phone batteries,” he says, “and asking parents for their babies’ names so I can honor them during my race.”

Donohue hopes to finish his marathon—filming and all—in under three hours and 50 minutes, shaving 15-20 minutes off his finish time at his first 26.2-miler, the 2006 New York City Marathon.

Still, what he’s most looking forward to is “finishing the race knowing I did everything I could to raise awareness for those babies.”

Donohue encourages parents affected by stillbirth to do research and rely on those around them. “Whether it’s your family or friends, or you’re going out and finding strangers who will become your friends, strength in dealing with stillbirth comes from seeking support,” he says. “Be open about it. Don’t be ashamed or silent.”

By Dronile Hiraldo

GET YOUR STORIES ON. Read more inspiring stories from runners chronicling their journeys to the TCS New York City Marathon starting line.

TUNE IN. The 2016 TCS New York City Marathon will be televised live on Sunday, November 6, on WABC-TV, Channel 7 in the New York tri-state area from 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. ET, and for the rest of the nation on ESPN2 from 9:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. ET.