#sextrafficking | Nonprofit founder running 7 half-marathons in 7 days to raise awareness – The Reporter | #tinder | #pof | #match

The past year has likely made many people feel like they ran three and a half marathons.

It is only fitting that Raymond Courtemanche, co-founder of the Matt Garcia Foundation, is choosing to close out 2020 by running seven half-marathons in seven cities in seven days, all to raise awareness of issues youth face and try to bring more resources to the youth of Solano County.

Starting Christmas Day, Courtemanche began running the first of his seven half-marathons — one in each city in Solano — which eventually brought him to Vacaville Tuesday.

At 6 a.m. Courtemanche and a small group of participants left the parking lot of the Vacaville Police Department, traversed down Merchant Street, turned left on Alamo Drive, winded down Leisure Town Road, Elmira Road, Mason Street, Davis Street and Main Street, up to the end of North Alamo before finally getting back on Merchant Street and returning to the Police Department.

Raymond Courtemanche sticks his tongue out to illustrate his exhaustion after finishing a half marathon in front of the Vacaville Police Department on Merchant Street. Courtemanche finished the 13.3-mile circuit throughout Vacaville Tuesday morning in just under three hours.(Joel Rosenbaum — The Reporter)

Courtemanche said he was inspired by the 2016 documentary “Iron Cowboy” about James Lawrence, a Utah resident who broke multiple Guinness World Records in 2015 for running 50 ironman-length triathlons in 50 states in 50 days. Courtemanche wanted to do something like that on a smaller scale in Solano’s seven cities, with the goal of raising awareness of the Matt Garcia Foundation’s goals.

“I wanted to raise some awareness around houselessness and those that are struggling with addiction and those that have severely, persistently mental health issues in the hopes that we can really bring some change to those that are struggling and create resources,” he said.

Since 2008, the Matt Garcia Foundation has worked to carry on the legacy of Courtemanche’s stepson Garcia, who was elected to the Fairfield City Council in 2007 at the age of 21 and gunned down less than a year later in a case of mistaken identity. During his time on the council, Garcia was a steadfast advocate for more youth programs and amenities in Fairfield to keep teens away from drugs and violence.

That vision lives on through the Matt Garcia Foundation, with Courtemanche emphasizing Fairfield as a city in need of resources due to it being the county seat.

“Every city drives those that are in need, if you will, to the county services, the jails there,” he said.

As somebody who was homeless himself from the age of 16 to 19, Courtemanche said he understands the issue very well.

Guided by a headlamp and street lights, Raymond Courtemanche crosses the intersection of Mariposa Avenue and Alamo Drive in Vacaville early Tuesday morning shortly after beginning his fifth of seven half marathons. Courtemanche plans to run the last two in Suisun City and Fairfield today and Thursday respectively.(Joel Rosenbaum — The Reporter)

“I understand the dynamics of living out on the streets,” he said. “The idea is to run these seven half-marathons in a 24-hour period to represent a day in the life of someone homeless on the streets without any resources in hopes to inspire our community to, as Matt would say, ‘step up to the plate’ and be a difference in this world that we live in.”

At the start of the year, Courtemanche set a physical goal of running seven half-marathons in seven days. As of Tuesday, he had completed half-marathons in Rio Vista, Benicia, Vallejo, Dixon and Vacaville, with plans to run in Suisun City and Fairfield on Wednesday and Thursday respectively. By the time he arrived in Vacaville, Courtemanche said he had run the equivalent of two full marathons and was definitely feeling the effects.

“As I was leaving my house today, I told my wife I wanted to quit,” he said. “My body is like, ‘What are you doing?’”

However, Courtemanche persevered and continued to bring attention to the cause.

“The fact of the matter is you are able to work through things, especially when you have support,” he said.

In Vacaville, Courtemanche was joined by Felipe Salas and Linda and Vincent Guisande of Tri-City Glass in Suisun City. The Guisandes are longtime family friends of Courtemanche and founding members of the Matt Garcia Foundation’s Board of Directors, and Vincent even coached Garcia in baseball.

“They’ve been my friends forever,” Courtemanche said.

Raymond Courtemanche runs along North Alamo Drive in Vacaville Tuesday as he nears completion of his 13.3-mile trek around the city.(Joel Rosenbaum — The Reporter)

Linda ran alongside Courtemanche, while Vincent and Sales followed on bikes. Together, they traveled 13.35 miles and completed the course in just under three hours. Along the way, Courtemanche wore a hat in memory of Tay Little, a Rio Vista resident who died in a rollover crash in Modesto in 2014 when she was eight months pregnant. Little’s boyfriend, Fairfield resident Demaria Harge, was given 30 years to life after being found guilty of second-degree murder in the crash.

Courtemanche said he is hoping to raise awareness of several issues that youth face, including homelessness, drug use, violence and sex trafficking. He also is hoping to raise funds for additional resources for programs that provide services for homeless individuals, such as My Friend’s House at Opportunity House, which seeks to meet the needs of homeless and at-risk youth.

“It’s really about trying to fund and bring resources to those providers that are providing the resources,” he said. “Matt said, ‘If you support our youth, it would help stop crime and strengthen the very community that we live in.’ That’s why we’re being very intentional in running every city in Solano County. It’s the community that we want to strengthen.”

Since the foundation was unable to host its annual golf tournament this year due to COVID-19 restrictions, Courtemanche said the nonprofit has a deficit of about $25,000 that would have been spent in 2021 on youth programs and services. The foundation is calling upon the community to donate to continue to support the foundation’s scholarships, mentoring programs and baseball clinic, among other things.

“Every resource that comes through our organization goes directly to support youth, help stop crime and strengthen the communities that we live in,” he said.

Raymond Courtemanche (left) leads a prayer with Linda Guisande, Felipe Salas, and Vincent Guisande before the group set out for a half marathon early Tuesday morning in Vacaville. The 13.3-mile trek was the fifth of seven half marathons Courtemanche is running in the communities around Solano County to raise awareness for homeless youth.(Joel Rosenbaum — The Reporter)

Donations may be made at Mattgarciafoundation.org/donate or by mailing to the following address:

The Matt Garcia Foundation
P.O. Box 3301
Fairfield, CA 94533

Courtemanche also calls upon Solano residents to donate directly to youth services providers in their own cities if possible.

Overall, Courtemanche said the runs are a way to demonstrate to others that they can take care of themselves physically, intellectually, emotionally and spiritually.

“If you invest in those four areas on a daily basis, the potential in being able to see the great and unsearchable things that God has for us are limitless,” he said. “There’s a lot of hurt and harm in this world, but as human beings can bring help, hope and healing.”

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