Erin’s Run FTS Q&A: Ben Sprague

Erin’s Run is a cause that is near and dear to the hearts of Fill The Steins’ founders, and one of the events over the year that we’re proud to promote through our FILLanthropy initiative. Erin grew up in the same town as many of the FTS crew, and our families were very much part of the same community. After Erin passed away following an amazing battle with cancer, family and friends came together to honor Erin’s legacy and passion for two things in particular: combating domestic violence, and supporting the University of Maine Swimming & Diving Team.  Fill The Steins is proud to continue its sponsorship of Erin’s Run 5K into its second year, and urges individuals, families, and businesses to get involved, as well.  Info on registrations, donations, and sponsorships is all available at

As part of our promotion of this fantastic cause, Fill The Steins is delighted that Ben Sprague, co-founder of Erin’s Run (as well as a new dad, Mayor of Bangor, and Financial Advisor at Means Investments…) was able to join us for a very special FTS Q&A.;  Welcome, Ben!

Fill The Steins: Tell us about your friendship with Erin.
Ben Sprague: Erin and I grew up in the same neighborhood.  In fact most of the people involved with planning this race lived close by and were family friends from a very young age.  Erin and I graduated together and even marched side by side at graduation. 

FTS: What’s your favorite story about Erin?
BS: She has this great spunky energy that just made everyone feel positive when she was around.  I never heard her say a negative thing about anyone.  She was a true friend to so many people and someone to emulate. 

FTS: How did Erin’s Run come together?
BS: A group of neighbors, friends, and family members wanted to do something to celebrate Erin’s life.  Three years had passed since Erin left us and it was time to do something positive to recognize Erin and to carry on her legacy. 

FTS: Is there a story behind the butterfly logo of the Run?
BS: Erin’s Run took the butterfly as her personal symbol.  I think it was because the Butterfly was one of her signature events as a swimmer.  Since she worked at Spruce Run in Bangor, a domestic violence resource center, the butterfly became a perfect symbol of growth, rebirth, and hope.  Erin’s mother, Nan, chose the color purple, and one of her best friends, Megan Huckins, was the one who actually designed it. 

FTS: What was the first year like, both in terms of the planning and execution, but also from a look-back at the successes (how many participants?  Money raised?)
BS: We had several hundred participants and in the end netted about $15,000, which was split 50-50 between the University of Maine Swimming and Diving Program and Spruce Run.  Overall we felt it was a solid event for the first year and we were blessed with both good weather and a lot of community enthusiasm and support. 

FTS: Who else is involved with Erin’s Run?  Organizers?  Sponsors we should be thanking?
BS: The organizing team is a group of Erin’s friends, neighbors, and family members.  Our lead sponsor in 2013 was the Webber Group, but the event would not have been possible or not been nearly as successful without all of our participants and sponsors at all levels, including Fill the Steins!  The City of Bangor was also very accommodating with use of the Waterfront and help managing the route. 

FTS: Aside from the obvious – and wonderfully admirable – goals of benefiting Spruce Run and the University, what are your objectives for Erin’s Run?
BS: We want to remember Erin and carry on her legacy.  That is the most important thing. She would have been doing so much wonderful work for the community and for women who are in situations with domestic violence, and even though she is gone we can still help with that work through her name and memory. We also want to have this be an annual springtime event in Bangor and a reason for people to come out and have some camaraderie while getting some exercise. 

FTS: What’s the best part of the day of Erin’s Run?
BS: The best part for me was seeing just how many people cared about Erin and wanted to celebrate her life.  The highlight was seeing her mom, dad, and brother right in the middle of everything helping out and cheering people on. 

FTS: Many of Erin’s friends come from all over to participate, and it’s not just a local event – some from Vermont, where she went to law school, some UMaine friends…  How far is the Run reaching?  Where are some of the furthest participants coming from?
BS: We had people come from Chicago who knew Erin and a lot of folks from Massachusetts and southern Maine.  It really was wonderful to think in the days leading up to the event that there were people from all over the place all heading in the same direction: towards Bangor to celebrate the life of this amazing woman. 

FTS: Maine’s cancer rates are fairly high, which is obviously concerning for those of us who live here.  What kind of attention do you hope to bring to cancer diagnoses, treatments, or statistics, if any?
BS: Erin passing away from cancer was such a tragedy especially at such a young age.  We want people who have been diagnosed and their families to know they are not alone and that there are so many people in the community pulling for them.  There are sadly too many stories out there of people losing a loved one and it’s so sad when it happens to someone so young. 

FTS: You’re a new dad (congratulations!)  Will we see you out there with a jogging stroller?
BS: As the Race Director I may be coordinating details right up until race time.  Last year I didn’t run in order to help things go smoothly behind the scenes, but this year I may have to put the new baby in a stroller and head up the back of the pack!

FTS: Of course, we’re promoting the Run, the fundraiser, and the website, but is there anything you’d like people to know about running, donating, and/or sponsoring?
BS: We are always looking for sponsors and donations and are extremely grateful to your group.  Just as it was nice to have a reunion of Erin’s friends and family, it also was a good chance to get a great group of University of Maine alumni together.  We appreciate your support and look forward to seeing as many of you as possible on May 3rd along the Bangor Waterfront!

Thanks to Ben for joining Fill The Steins to promote this great cause – and thanks to the tireless work of Ben and many others in making Erin’s Run a reality!  Erin’s Run 5K will be held on Saturday, May 3rd at 10:00AM on the Bangor Waterfront.  

What do you say, FTS Nation?  See you there?  Let us know in the comments or on Twitter or Facebook!


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