N.J. man to embark on 3-day, 196-mile ‘kindness run’ to benefit nonprofit formed after Sandy Hook tragedy

64-year-old Ray Pinney, of Boonton, is raising money for the Dylan’s Wings of Change charity, which helps student leaders.

Ray Pinney and another runner

The three-day run, equivalent to four ultramarathons, will be on roads, streets and pathways. (Courtesy Ray Pinney and Kindness Run to benefit Dylan’s Wings of Change)

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A New Jersey man is running the equivalent of eight marathons in three days to raise money for a nonprofit that works with school children, teaching them kindness, acceptance and empathy.

64-year-old Ray Pinney of Boonton, who works for the New Jersey School Boards Association, is making the 196-mile trek from the southern tip of Cape May to the northern tip of the Garden State in High Point State Park. The money he raises will benefit Dylan’s Wings of Change, named for Dylan Hockley, a first grader who died in the 2012 Sandy Hook school shooting.

“I call it the ‘kindness run’ because I ask people to donate to Dylan’s Wings, but also to perform one small act of kindness, a random act of kindness,” he said. “We’re going into a presidential election, so I think kindness might be a little bit harder to come by.”

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Ray Pinney and another runner
The three-day run, equivalent to four ultramarathons, will be on roads, streets and pathways. (Courtesy Ray Pinney and Kindness Run to benefit Dylan’s Wings of Change)

Pinney said he started running when he was 50. He thinks in a world that’s filled with hate, the antidote to hatred is kindness.

Robb Armstrong, program director and master trainer for Dylan’s Wings of Change, said the group focuses on building a consortium of student leaders and training them to work as a collective to support other students, while amplifying positivity, kindness and acceptance.

“If we feel that we don’t belong then it’s much easier to withdraw, and perhaps harm ourselves or harm somebody else,” he said. “It’s well-documented that when we feel that we can show up authentically, we are much more efficient as workers, as coworkers, our production rises.”

How to prepare for a 'super run,' according to Pinney:

  • Try to run an “ultra marathon” of 50 miles or longer, three to four months before the super run
  • Run two 20-mile runs on weekends, at least a few times leading up to the super run
  • On weekdays, run two or three times a day — before work, during lunch and maybe after work
  • Do longer runs in really bad weather to train your mind and to not quit
  • Do plenty of hill running and get your legs used to being tired while running

Pinney’s first run for the cause was in 2022, when he successfully ran the length of the state from north to south. He said it was a life-changing event.

“The acts of kindness was really one of the lessons I got from that run, it was how strong it is,” he said. “It kept us going, and I felt like I was running for other people.”

Ray Pinney and a stranger
A stranger got up at 4:30 a.m. to greet Pinney on his first run, two years ago. (Courtesy Ray Pinney and Kindness Run to benefit Dylan’s Wings of Change)

This year, Pinney will be accompanied by Marine Corps. veteran Anthony Certa, of Toms River, and another friend, Dave Maxwell, of Netcong.

A support crew, including Pinney’s family, will be traveling with the runners as they go through the state, mostly on Route 206.

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Where they will run

The Kindness Run will start around 5:30 a.m. Friday morning at the Cape May Lighthouse and head up into Atlantic County, using highways, side roads, back roads and trails.

Pinney said they hope to arrive in the Tabernacle area around midnight, where they will nap for a few hours before proceeding up Route 206.

Most of Saturday will be spent running in Burlington and Mercer Counties. The trio will probably travel into Somerset County in the evening before taking a break in the Chester or Mount Olive area.

The runners plan to leave early Sunday morning and spend all day into the early evening running through Sussex County, before finishing up at High Point State Park.

“We expect to go about 75, 80 miles the first day,” Pinney said. “Rest for a couple of hours, then do another 75 miles, and hopefully on Sunday, which will be the third day, we’ll have about 40 miles left, but it’s a hard 40 miles because it’s more uphill.”

Pinney first learned about Dylan’s Wings of Change in 2019 at a New Jersey School Boards Association convention, where Dylan’s father, Ian Hockley, was a keynote speaker. He said he was inspired by the work they were doing and decided to support the organization. Pinney organized the first New Jersey donation run in 2022. He said the goal of this year’s run is to raise $10,000.

“I was really taken that he had taken a negative tragedy, losing his child in such a horrific manner,” Pinney said. “And turning it into such a positive thing. That touched me, and I don’t know if I could have done that.”

Piney said he hopes he and his co-runners can inspire people.

“I hope people think about kindness, you’re capable of more than you think if you put your mind to it,” he said. “And we need to challenge ourselves and our kids to be good citizens, kind citizens. Sometimes you have to take the hard path.”

Armstrong, the program director, said an act of kindness isn’t going to change the world, but it can change someone’s day.

“We’re looking to help the kids see everybody that’s in their room, and help the staff to realize that the kid that’s constantly frustrating may need to learn differently. Empowering the students can help them help each other.” he said.

“The more that we can empower them to make the change that they want to see, it helps them to have ownership, which means they’re going to be more willing to show up for each other.”

To learn more, visit the New Jersey Kindness Run Facebook page. You can make a donation here.

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