Volunteer of the Week Article

Kevin Nolan directs and sponsors charitable runs. He lives in Havertown.

Photo by Pete Bannan

By Joel Fram

Kevin Nolan is as dedicated a runner as you’re likely to meet. He clocks in some 40-50 miles a week, conducts business meetings with fellow runners “on the run” and is pursuing a goal of running in all 50 states (he’ll tick off numbers 19 and 20 this October). And his love of running goes beyond its own pleasures and benefits; he is a regular sponsor and race director of group runs that benefit charitable causes, from education to cancer research.


Organizing a charitable run involves much, much more than announcing it. Sponsors must be lined up, police and EMS crews involved, T-shirts ordered, food donations arranged, supplies made available, down to the safety pins used to attach identifying bibs to runner’s shirts — and the event must be well-marketed. “It’s like a military operation,” Nolan says. He’s done it many times.

Nolan, an outgoing and fit (of course) man of 50, grew up on Long Island, attended Villanova University (class of 1981) and has lived in this area ever since. Turning a college job into a career, he started Nolan Painting Inc., whose lawn signs seem ubiquitous on the Main Line. He and his wife of 29 years, Mary Frances, who works at Penn State, live in Havertown, and all their children attended Haverford Township schools. Perhaps not by coincidence, their oldest daughter, 23, graduated from Penn State, their middle daughter and son are current students there, and their youngest, a son, is set to attend next year. Nolan’s passion for running is shared by two of his children, but not the other two or his wife.

Nolan’s current project is organizing the 13th annual Main Line 5K Run, which is scheduled for Sunday, Sept. 26, rain or shine, in Wayne. Proceeds, expected to run about $35,000, will go toward $1,000 scholarships to one student from each of 17 area high schools and one volunteer firefighter from each of 18 volunteer area fire companies. The event is sponsored by the Main Line Chamber Foundation, a charitable arm of the Main Line Chamber of Commerce, of which Nolan is the vice chairman. Since its inception, the run has raised some $200,000.

Nolan is also the race director of the Reindeer Romp, a Havertown 5K run that benefits the American Cancer Society. The run, which occurs in December, has raised some $200,000 since Nolan started it 12 years ago; his company is a sponsor.

And Nolan is an organizer of the Haverford Twilight Run, in its third year, whose proceeds go toward students’ and teachers’ projects through the Haverford Township School District Education Foundation. The event, which occurs in April, has raised some $100,000.

Nolan, individually and through his business, is involved in a range of additional charities, including Alex’s Lemonade Stand, Surrey Services, the Bryn Mawr Senior Center and the Haverford Senior Center as well as some 20-30 other runs. His company encourages its employees to volunteer, and offers them credit toward vacation days for their volunteer time. Nolan says that sponsoring runs and volunteering time are a vital part of his social life as well a means of doing good and providing a role model for his kids. And, he adds, emphasizing community involvement is good for business.

Incidentally, the “rain or shine” tag line for runs is meant to be taken literally, and includes anything else the weather may bring. Last year’s Reindeer Run was held during a heavy nor’easter, and the run in 2004 was held in the midst of a 6-inch snowfall. Though such impediments cut participation by fair-weather runners, Nolan says that the arrangements and obligations to sponsors require that the run occur regardless.

“I can’t conceive of a reason you wouldn’t have the event,” he says. Said like a true impresario of running.

For more information about the upcoming Main Line 5K Run visit www.mainlinerun.org.

If you would like to suggest a volunteer, contact Joel Fram via e-mail at frambook@aol.com.