Dreamfar Organization Trains Teens to Run

By Andrew Prince

BU News Service

More than a year ago, the finish line of the Boston Marathon, located on Boylston Street between Dartmouth Street and Exeter Street, was the scene of explosions, chaos and blood when shrapnel from two pressure cooker bombs tore through the legs of runners and bystanders resulting in hundreds of injuries, dozens of amputations and three deaths.

On Saturday, two days before the 118th Boston Marathon, more than 8,600 runners crossed that same finish line to complete the 2014 Boston Athletic Association 5K. Among those who ran were about 100 students from nine high schools in the Boston area who are training for a marathon themselves, the Cox Providence Marathon on May 4, in Rhode Island—they are too young to run Boston.

“Most of our kids could barely ever run a mile other than the mile you run at phys ed,” Jamie Chaloff, founder and director of Dreamfar High School Marathon, said in October, before training had begun.

Over the next six months, the students were given mentors to train with during the week. On Saturdays, the students gathered in Brookline to train together.

Chaloff worked in special needs education before starting Dreamfar six years ago. She runs the organization out of her house, just like she had with Purple Cow Pre-School years ago. A purple cow figurine still sits on a shelf as soon as you enter her Chestnut Hill house coming through the basement. Chaloff wears feathers in her highlighted brown hair to appear more approachable to the students, she said. And she paints her nails orange, a Dreamfar color, with 26.2 written in her thumbnail for motivation.

“We were looking for the kids that sort of fall through the cracks at school,” Chaloff said. “The honors kids have their honors classes and their AP classes and the athletes have their sports and have their teams. But there are a bunch of kids in high schools that just don’t connect to anybody and connectedness is just so important. If every student has someone to connect to, an adult in the high school, it just makes their entire high school experience that much easier.”

Fatima Ezzahra El Krimi, 15, from Morocco, arrived in America in March 2013. “I don’t miss it,” said Fatima in a telephone interview. She joined Dreamfar because she wanted a physical activity to replace soccer, which she hasn’t had much opportunity to play here.

“I love running,” said Fatima, who didn’t know any English when she arrived in America. She taught herself by watching the news and looking up words on her computer during class. “I want to prepare now to run in the Boston Marathon. Mr. Bob really supports me a lot.”

“Mr. Bob” is Bob Aftosmes-Tobio, Fatima’s running mentor and algebra teacher at Mary Lyon Pilot High School. His wife, Alyssa, is also a mentor and project manager at Harvard’s School of Public Health. The couple combined their last names (Bob Tobio and Alyssa Aftosmes) when they got married, and they are among some other Dreamfar mentors running the Boston Marathon.

Bob wears glasses and has a beard and long brown hair that he puts in a ponytail. Alyssa has short red hair that sweeps across her head from left to right. They live in a sea-green two-story house in Roxbury, which they have been renovating. Furniture is scattered around the house and blue painting tape hugs most of the corners of the walls. A Dreamfar poster leans against the wall just inside the front door. They sit next to each other on a beige couch in the middle of the room in their Boston Marathon jackets from last year.

“Fatima is perfect for the program,” Bob Aftosmes-Tobio said. “She never really talks as much as she talks when she’s running with Alyssa.”

“She hates running hills,” Alyssa Aftosmes-Tobio said.

“Oh gosh, no, I think, ‘No I can’t do it,’” Fatima Ezzahra El Krimi said. “But they say, ‘No Fatima you’re gonna do it, just keep running.’ And I just keep running because I want to do it.”

If you just push Ezzahra El Krimi a little, she responds, Alyssa Aftosmes-Tobio said. “I’m excited for her to finish.”

For Bob and Alyssa Aftosmes-Tobio, finishing the Boston Marathon might mean healing a year-old wound. Last year was supposed to be their first marathon together—then tragedy struck. They were on Beacon Street less than two miles from the finish line when the bombs exploded.

They were both slowed in last year’s Marathon by injuries—Bob Aftosmes-Tobio by an inflamed ligament in his right knee, Alyssa Aftosmes-Tobio by a hip-flexor problem, but they wanted to finish anyway. Had they been healthy, they could have been caught in the explosion, they said. Instead, National Guardsmen stopped them at Park Drive with “very big guns,” Alyssa Aftosmes-Tobio said.

“The realization that we were not going to finish was too much,” Alyssa Aftosmes-Tobio said. “I just stood there crying until Bob said, ‘We gotta go, we have to find out where we need to be.’ Thinking back it seems selfish to think that I just couldn’t believe that we weren’t going to finish.”

One of the worst feelings, Bob Aftosmes-Tobio said, was facing the confused spectators and runners looking to them for answers, some following the couple back to their hotel room. It was only once they got to the hotel room and turned on the news that they knew what had happened.

“Who would ever want to hurt runners?” Alyssa Aftosmes-Tobio said she remembers thinking.

They both finished the Providence Marathon but “it didn’t fill the void of Boston,” Alyssa Aftosmes-Tobio said. A year later, their emotions are still damaged, Alyssa Aftosmes-Tobio said. Now, they have another chance to finish what they couldn’t last year.

“To finish a marathon is like the like step one of healing, I guess,” Bob Aftosmes-Tobio said.


Disclosure note: The author of this article has agreed to film the organization’s activities for use in a promotional video.

BU Students Jailed for Two Alleged Parties Released

By Heather Hamacek
BU News Service

With shackled hands raised to cover their faces, four Boston University students stood behind a glass window of the prisoners dock in Brighton Municipal Court as they waited to hear if they would, once again, be released on bail.

Michael Oldcorn, 20, John Pavia, 20, Sawyer Petric, 19, and Terry Bartrug, 20, appeared before Judge David Donnelly for a hearing to reinstate their bail, after it had been revoked on charges of keeping a disorderly house while on pretrial probation and spending three days in jail.  They ultimately were released on their own recognizance.

The four students allegedly hosted two Allston parties at 85 Linden St. that both ended with the police being called.  The second party was during their pretrial probation for the first party, and landed them in Nashua Street Jail this past week.

The first motion put forward by the lawyer for the defense of Pavia, Petric and Bartrug, David Yannetti, was to not bring the defendants out, or allow them something to cover their faces.  Judge Donnelly declined, but allowed the defendants to cover their faces with their hands.

“My clients have now been in custody for three days,” said Yannetti.  He said three days is longer than they would serve for the offense they are charged with.

When Patrick Sheehan, attorney for the defense of Michael Oldcorn, suggested that bail be reinstated with certain limitations, Judge Donnelly said the bail they violated had those limitations.

“They [the limitations] didn’t work, that’s why we’re here,” said Donnelly.

Judge Donnelly ruled that the four defendants were to be released on their own recognizance, with the original conditions of release applying and a few additions.

They all must stay drug and alcohol free, with random testing.  “None of them are twenty-one, certainly they should be alcohol free and drug free,” said Donnelly.

No traveling outside the city of Boston without completing their community service hours and notifying their probation officers, with the exception for family events on religious holidays is allowed.  And they must respect a curfew of 10PM to 6AM Sunday through Thursday and from 12AM through 6AM Friday and Saturday.

The pretrial probation will last until September when their lease on 85 Linden St. is up.

Speaking to the press after the trail, Sheehan said, “I understand where the judge made the decision [to revoke bail] from legally speaking, but it doesn’t mean I agree with it.”

He said he thinks the plan for all the defendants is to move out of the house where both charges of keeping a disorderly house occurred.

“They [the defendants] were prepared to go to classes on Wednesday, and instead they were in Nashua Street Jail,” Yannetti said to the press. “Never in a million years did they think they’d be in that situation.

As for the future of the defendants, Yannetti said, “I expect they will further their education and go on to bright careers.”

The four defendants are expected back in court on Apr. 1.

One of Fitrec’s Best Kept Secrets

By Kirsten Glavin
BU News Servie

Early morning workouts combined with exhausted, caffeine-dependent college student isn’t necessarily an ideal match made in heaven. But what if a workout was presented in class form, where all students have to do is show up? And better yet, what if the class was entirely free? This is exactly what the Boston University Fitness and Recreation Center, “Fitrec,” offers students every week. However, a majority of students have no idea the opportunity exists.

According to Kristina Covarrubias, a marketing staff member at Fitrec, free gym classes were first offered in the fall of 2012 with the main objective of providing workouts to faculty, staff, alumni, and other non-student personnel on campus. After receiving positive feedback from attendees, the classes were then opened up to students.

“It is really an extension of the awesome recreation class program,” Covarrubias said. “The classes are taught by the same fitness instructors that run other classes for credit.”

General workout classes are part of the PDP program at Fitrec, allowing undergraduates to participate in gym classes for university credit. Other students wishing to enroll are required to pay a fee for the semester class. Although undergraduates do frequent the free drop-in classes, an overwhelming number are unaware they are offered.

“I don’t believe many students know about the free classes and most people find out through ‘word of mouth’ or friends,” said Kelly Colden, a Fitrec employee and free class participant. “In a typical class, there are about 30 students, which is the maximum capacity. However, some classes fill up faster than others depending on their popularity.”

Colden finds that the “Happy Hour Workouts,” offered every Friday for students, are better advertised and receive much more attention. However, “Happy Hour” was offered in past semesters and were posted on the Fitrec website’s home page. “Other free classes during the week are new this semester and just aren’t as well known,” Colden said.

Shann Chan (SMG ’15) is another student who agrees the classes are the hidden gems of Fitrec. Chan learned of their existence through her roommate, and has since taken up yoga on Thursday mornings.

“I don’t think they market the classes enough,” Chan said. “There are no signs or anything, just a brochure on the table. You really just hear through word of mouth, they don’t go out of their way to tell students.”

Although many students are unaware that the free workouts are an option, Fitrec does advertise them through their Twitter handle @FitRec, posters at the lobby entrance, and on their website (www.bu.edu/fitrec). The classes run September 16 to December 13, and include Fat Burn, Cycling, Zumba, Total Body Conditioning, and Yoga.

The class times vary by day, so there is truly a time and a workout for everyone. Colden believes that most people enjoy the workouts because of this, and that morning and lunch hours are convenient for the majority of students.

“The instructors are also very qualified and fun,” she added. “My favorite free class to take is the Total Body Conditioning on Wednesday mornings. The class is high energy and the instructor does a great job of motivating us and keeping the workout fun. Also, it’s at a perfect time on Wednesdays morning so I can get a workout in before my classes at 9 a.m.”

Interested in experiencing one of Fitrec’s best-kept secrets? Because class space is limited, Fitrec asks that those interested arrive 10-15 minutes before the class to claim a spot. The Front Desk administers class passes, which are then collected by the instructors at the beginning of the workout.