The addition of one more qualifying runner to the Boston Marathon wouldn't normally make the news, but there is a woman from Michigan for whom race day meant much more than making her best time. For her seventh marathon, Rahaf Khatib wanted to fundraise for Syrian refugees here in the United States. And she has done just that, raising $16,000 by promoting her cause on Instagram with the hashtag #runlikeahijabi among her 10,000-plus followers.
If you're a runner, you probably have already heard of Khatib. She's the daughter of Syrian immigrants who has been on the cover of running magazines like Runners World and Women's Running Magazine. Her parents came here 35 years ago and settled in Michigan, a state that's now seeing one of the largest influx of Syrian refugees.
Khatib told CNN there is a real need to help refugees that are here in the U.S. — like in Michigan, where she said the refugee situation is dire. "Where I live, it's a crisis," Khatib explained to the network. "I personally as a stay-at-home mom couldn't contribute financially and I felt like I had to help."
To make that happen, she wrote to the Boston Athletic Association to get on a team, then opened her fundraising page on LaunchGood.com:
Khatib ran on the Hyland's team, a women-only team honoring the 50th anniversary of women entering the race. The first woman to run was Kathrine Switzer who made history running with the number 261, now forever synonymous with women in sport.
The money Khatib raised will go to the Syrian American Rescue Network, a Michigan charity dedicated to helping refugees from Syria settle in the state and become self-sufficient. The charity helps refugees with housing, jobs, English lessons, and to work them through cultural differences.
Khatib said on her fundraising page that this cause is "meaningful, sincere, personal," considering her family's immigrant background. She told CNN, "They are our guests in our country, and we need to be good to our guests. And how can I not help? They're in my backyard."
That's the attitude all Americans can strive for — both for refugees here in our backyards, and for those who haven't yet made it out of harm's way.