FirstEnergy Akron Marathon Holds New Meaning

MaryBeth and a family enjoying the SAVE trailer.

October 18, 2019

“It’s an experience I’ll never forget,” said MaryBeth Emerich, SAP Configuration Analyst IV, Revenue Operations and Human Services, Reading, Pa., when asked about volunteering at the FirstEnergy Akron Marathon.

The Marathon, held on Saturday, Sept. 28, may be a distant memory for some, but for MaryBeth, it holds special meaning. Thanks to a partnership with KultureCity, a nonprofit with a mission to revolutionize and effect change in the sensory-needs community, this year’s event was the first-ever sensory inclusive marathon.

Sensory inclusion means providing a special area with trained staff and volunteers, designed to calm the senses if the environment becomes too overwhelming for attendees with sensory disorders such as autism, PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), Parkinson’s disease and early onset dementia.

MaryBeth and a family enjoying the SAVE trailer.

MaryBeth, who has three sons with autism spectrum disorder, participated in the required certification process so she could volunteer during the marathon.

“I’ve always wanted to volunteer because of the charities the event benefits. Now, I wanted to take part even more, so I could help out at the KultureCity area,” she said. “The certification training was so relatable to me – 10 minutes into it I realized they were talking about my everyday life. I had tears rolling down my face.”

MaryBeth also is a member of THRIVE – one of our Employee Business Resource Groups. THRIVE’s mission is to foster an inclusive work environment where employees with physical and mental disabilities and conditions are empowered to be authentic, valued and respected. The group also provides support and encouragement for employees who have family members and friends with physical and mental disabilities and conditions.

A Fulfilling Experience

According to MaryBeth, the marathon was one of the most energizing events she had ever attended. She spent the day volunteering at the KultureCity Sensory Activation Vehicle trailer.

“I mainly helped children who were curious about the trailer, which provided sensory inclusive toolkits equipped with noise-canceling headphones, fidget tools, verbal cue cards and weighted lap pads, along with bean bags and textured walls. It offered a safe place for those needing it,” said MaryBeth. “And, we had a number of adults stop by who wanted more information about sensory inclusion. This new concept really helped raise awareness.”

MaryBeth said her day of volunteering was near and dear to her heart.

“I would like to thank KultureCity for providing the means for those who are prisoners within their home to be included within the community, “MaryBeth said.  “I would like to see all companies incorporate KultureCity’s Introductory Sensory Inclusive Training into their training requirements. I believe it is a critical component to achieving inclusion. Most important, I would like to thank FirstEnergy for providing me with this opportunity. It certainly was an experience I will never forget.”

MaryBeth (second from r.) with KultureCity volunteers (l.-r.): John Hardesty, Karly Pallante, Sean Culkin, Jordon Gliem, Carson Belles and Jeff Belles.