A look back on our inaugural fundraiser at Pacers Running


Within the running gear-lined walls of Pacers Running store, a unique group of athletes and advocates for women’s empowerment joined board members and Nina’s family and friends to discuss the success of the running camp and race in Amman, Jordan founded in her honor.

As we looked ahead to Year 5, our inaugural fundraiser on June 22 in Washington, D.C. provided a platform for representatives from all parts of the Nina Foundation community to come together. U.S. Fulbright students who had volunteered in the camp, former classmates and professors, Nina’s running club teammates, and her family and friends were among those in attendance at the event. Held in partnership with Pacers and RunWashington, the friendly atmosphere -- combined with delicious Middle Eastern finger foods from the Mediterranean Bakery and Cafe -- provided the perfect setting for a relaxed exchange aimed at uniting the breadth of the Nina Foundation community and reflecting on its mission and future goals.

The evening began with drinks, appetizers and the intermingling of old friends and new acquaintances brought together by the cause. Attendees had the opportunity to bid on items offered for silent auction. As these were generously donated by local businesses, D.C. organizations and friends to the foundation, our thanks go out to the Washington Nationals, the Credit Union Cherry Blossom Ten Mile Run, YogaWorks, Wisdom, Elevate Interval Fitness, and especially to Nina’s uncle, Major League Baseball Analyst Tim Kirkjian. One of our guests won the opportunity to have a meal with Tim to discuss baseball!

As conversations reached a steady rhythm, Foundation Vice President Dickson Mercer welcomed guests and introduced Daniel Hincapie, founder of the Wendy Martinez Legacy Project, to say a few words. The Project’s namesake, Wendy Martinez, was a strong advocate for women’s empowerment like Nina was. We were honored to have Daniel attend our event and discuss the similarities in our respective missions.

Foundation President Mary Grace Pellegrini then invited guests to gather around a TV to view highlights from our fourth season. They saw camp participants discussing their greatest challenges and their goals, and how the camp and race was a source of joy and self confidence. Former camp volunteers beamed nostalgically but knowingly at the footage, familiar with the impact that programs have on the ground. It also was a powerful moment for Nina’s family and friends who were able to see the camp’s growth and Nina’s vision becoming a reality.

Board members and former camp volunteers formed a four-woman panel comprised of volunteers from every year of the camp since its founding. They shared anecdotes highlighting the camp’s impact on girls in refugee and underserved communities in Jordan. From the joy and excitement the camp inspires, to the tenacity running teaches them, the stories centered on the girls and what the Foundation aims to offer them, but also what they can offer us: lessons of spirit, positivity and teamwork.

Nina’s professor at Georgetown University’s Center for Contemporary Arab Studies, Fida Adely, spoke of the scholarship founded in her honor. And Nina’s uncle, Matt Kurkjian, shared that the success of Nina’s camp and race has provided a source of joy for those who loved her and still miss her every day.

The end of the program was met by the announcement of raffle prizes, and it was fun to see winners leave the event sporting Nina camp hats, t-shirts and jackets. The ticket purchases and generous donations we received generated more than $5,000 that will directly impact our programs and largely fund next year’s camp and race!

It was inspiring for the members of our board to see our guests as inspired by the potential of Nina’s vision -- and our success to date -- as we are. We are grateful to be backed by a strong community, look forward to doing this again next year, and thank everyone who supported our inaugural fundraising campaign. Like the camp and race, this was proof that Nina continues to bring people together and help people recognize the potential of running to positively impact society and change the world.