boston marathon survivor remembered as devoted fundraiser
Kevin White, the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing survivor who died of a sudden illness this week at his home, was training to compete in his third marathon as a way of coping with the tragedy.
“I think the Boston Marathon was his best form of therapy and rehabilitation because it proved to him that he wouldn’t be negatively impacted by that day,” White’s training coach Rick Muhr tells PEOPLE. “For most runners it is a celebration just to finish but I think his level of celebration went well beyond just finishing the race. He was celebrating his life. It was his way of saying that no one can have a negative impact on my life. It was the ultimate redemption to be able to run the Boston Marathon and cross the finish line where the terrible event happened. He had such courage.”
White, 37, and his parents were attending the April 15, 2013 marathon as spectators and were standing close to the finish line when the bombs went off. White suffered two concussions and a perforated eardrum. His mother and father were also badly injured.
“Kevin’s body was definitely impacted by that day,” says Muhr. “I know he had shrapnel in him and even shards of glass. He brought a quarter to training one time and showed it to me and said this was in my pocket that day and it was literally folded in half.”
Muhr says the terror attack took a heavy emotional toll on the Villanova and Vanderbilt alum.
“He told me one time when he was describing that day he didn t know if he would see his parents again,” says Muhr. “His father was on the ground in a pool of blood and his mother was leaning over his father. In the ensuing years, I know he seemed consumed by that day, as anyone probably would be. I think it weighed so heavily on him emotionally, physically and spiritually.”
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After the 2013 bombing, White teamed up with the Greg Hill Foundation, which offers help to those affected by the bombing, and raised over $30,000 by running the races.
“He was committed to doing whatever he could to help others,” founder Greg Hill tells PEOPLE. “I think Kevin was the kind of guy who let actions speak louder than words. I think he wanted his statement to be I am going to go run the Marathon and I am going to do it the year after and I am going to keep doing it in a way that raises money and helps other people who have been through a similar experience.”
Hill says he was moved by White’s dedication to his parents.
“I immediately was drawn to him because I noticed how concerned he was about his parents and about making sure his parents could get to where they needed to be,” says Hill about a foundation event White attended with his parents. “His father had part of his leg amputated. Kevin himself had been a victim that day and his concern was for his parents and that his parents were comfortable.”
Hill says White was a perfect example of “how amazing the human spirit can be.”
“To go through what he and all the Marathon survivors went through that day and to be able to turn your anger at what happened into a positive by running the marathon again is an absolute win for the human spirit,” he says.
White, who was born in Worcester, was an avid Boston sports fan, and an accomplished soccer player, according to his obituary. His brother Andrew told the Telegram & Gazette that White was the owner of a particularly loyal cat named Noodle.
“He had this real mischievous side,” says Muhr. “He had a look in his eye like a five-year-old boy who had just done something wrong. He had a little smirk. I loved that about him.”
Muhr says he saw White on December 12, just two days before he died suddenly.
“I ran with him on Saturday,” he says.”There were no warning signs of anything wrong. He was just the same old Kevin. He was very low key, soft-spoken and very introspective. I didn’t notice any changes whatsoever.”
Muhr says during their five-mile training run, White shared his concern for a friend whose father had recently died.
“His friend had just lost her father and she was a teammate of his from the 2014 Boston Marathon and he talked the entire time about how he hoped she was doing OK and how it had to be difficult on her,” he says. “He was concerned about her. That was just the way he was.”