Saturday marked many things for Jacksonville attorney Mike Freed, but his 36th marathon to raise funds for Jacksonville Area Legal Aid wasn't at the top of the list.
It was that he and his Freed to Run fundraiser reached the finish line goal of raising $2.25 million so the nonprofit will now have a permanent funding source for the Northeast Florida Medical Legal Partnership.
Much of that also has to do with Baptist Health’s 125% match on donations and all of the other runners, teams, sponsors and businesses that have contributed these last several years.
Freed to Run is six marathons in six days by relay teams that began Nov. 14 at the steps of the Florida Supreme Court and then five other courthouses until ending Saturday at the Duval County Courthouse nearly 160 miles later.
Freed, a Gunster law firm shareholder, first laced up in 2017 as a solo act when he was tired of watching “everyone hating each other and not accomplishing anything,” he told The Florida Times-Union during his second Freed to Run. He admitted he wasn't even an athlete and only a novice runner.
“I decided to do something significant enough to convince people to part with their money. That’s how I got this crazy idea,” he said. “Since I’m a lawyer, it made sense to do something for legal aid.”
Freed, now 54 and still running each marathon, has since inspired hundreds of runners and dozens of companies and organizations to join him in the effort. This year one of the team members included Olympic decathlete Garrett Scantling of Jacksonville. The teams are listed on Freed to Run’s online giving platform at jaxlegalaid.org/freedtorun, where donations can be made.
VyStar Credit Union's team decided on running all six marathons alongside Freed for the second year in a row.
“This is an opportunity for us to live out our purpose to do good across many of the communities we serve, and we are so grateful for the other teams and individuals who are giving their time and energy to this incredibly worthwhile cause,” VyStar President and CEO Brian Wolfburg said.
The Northeast Florida Medical Legal Partnership has served 1,600 pediatric patients and their families in the last five years, according to Jacksonville Area Legal Aid. The endowment funds an attorney who is embedded at Wolfson Children’s Hospital and takes referrals from pediatric providers whose patients and their families are confronting chronic and debilitating illnesses exacerbated by poverty-related legal issues. The proceeds also cover paralegal and other support.
"Stay tuned for announcements for what we're going to do with Freed to Run next," Freed said afterward outside the finish line, noting they want to take it statewide.
This article originally appeared on Florida Times-Union: Mike Freed to Run reaches marathon goal for Jacksonville Legal Aid