As NFL training camps prepare for the upcoming preseason, and hundreds of players battle for final roster spots, countless others, undrafted and unsigned yet hopeful nonetheless, continue to train for what they hope will be their eventual NFL career. Like Holyoke native, and Suffield Academy and Trinity College graduate Harry Melendez.
Melendez has recently made news for starting the community running/walking empowerment events I'm Running For Holyoke, where he extends an open invitation to anyone wanting to join him for a 2-3 mile training jog. Runs are held every other Sunday or so (Melendez sends word out through the group's Facebook page), with the understanding that each person's run is a step toward a larger life goal they have. In this way, Melendez has created an ongoing, regularly held event where his goal of making an NFL team is being used to empower the community of Holyoke.
As Melendez describes it, "I’m Running for Holyoke focuses on community unity and improvement through individual improvement."
"In a city so stigmatized by the scourge of violence and poverty," the group desciption continues, "I’m Running for Holyoke emanates the positive energy and fighting spirit that has defined Holyoke for centuries. With what these people have begun, Holyoke stands a chance to reclaim its place as one of the best cities in the nation."
"I wasn't supposed to make it, if you look at statistics. I'm a Latino that grew up in Holyoke with a single mother parent. I'm government assistance. I wasn't supposed to make it. I wasn't supposed to attend Trinity College. And I knew that the whole time I was at Trinity, and at Suffield. I knew I represented something bigger than myself. I represented a community."
The video is dedicated to Melendez's mother Angelica, who passed away in 2008.
"Taking a semester off from school, many thought he would not return to college," Lucila J. Santana writes for The Republican. "But he proved them wrong by becoming the first in his family to earn a bachelor’s degree."
It's a long road that Melendez has travelled already. One that continues with each I'm Running For Holyoke run. And whose final destination, while still unknown, grows in momentum with each runner who joins him. And each participant's goal that is earnestly tackled.