Local women going ‘Collier Strong,’ will run Boston Marathon with family of slain MIT officer

By Samantha Allen Lowell Sun

Melissa Alexa, left, of Dracut and Melinda Peloquin of Tyngsboro run in Tyngsboro. They are training to run the Boston Marathon as part of "Team Collier Strong." SUN/David H. Brow

Melissa Alexa, left, of Dracut and Melinda Peloquin of Tyngsboro run in Tyngsboro. They are training to run the Boston Marathon as part of “Team Collier Strong.” SUN/David H. Brow

Melinda Peloquin agonized over how to help those in pain after she learned two bombs went off at the Boston Marathon last April.

A nurse in Lowell General Hospital’s mother and infant care unit, Peloquin instantly thought of the care innocent victims would need that day.

Then, three days later, an MIT police officer from Wilmington was shot and killed, allegedly by the two men responsible for the attacks. Peloquin said she then thought of her husband, Jim Peloquin, a Westford police sergeant. MIT Officer Sean Collier’s death resonated with her.”You’re not safe anywhere when you’re a police officer,” she said, recalling her thoughts that infamous week. “You definitely hug your husband a little tighter because you know no matter where they go, (whether) it’s a small town or a college campus, they’re not safe.”

Peloquin would meet the Collier family a few months later at a half-marathon in New Hampshire. Peloquin pulled together a group of friends called “Team Sparkle” to run the Big Lake competition in Alton, N.H., to raise money for a Boston bombing victim they would determine later.

But Peloquin said that after connecting with Collier’s siblings, she knew she would have to change her mission and rally for them.

Around Christmas, Peloquin and her friend, Melissa Alexa, a Tyngsboro pediatric nurse, learned they would get the chance of a lifetime. The Collier family submitted a nonprofit application to run in the next Boston Marathon as “Team Collier Strong” — and both local nurses were invited to join.

The two women, both 37, are now preparing to compete in their first 26.2-mile run to continue raising money for the Sean A. Collier Self Sponsor Scholarship Fund.

The scholarship is devoted to helping put a cadet through the Lowell Police Academy, just like the 27-year-old officer did.

Peloquin wishes she was at the Boston Marathon last April “helping people.”

“We wanted to do something, and this is it,” she said.

Alexa, a Dracut native, said she and Peloquin have been working for months to collect money for Collier’s family. The chance to run in the Boston Marathon was a shocking but pleasant surprise, she said.

“On our runs, we talk about a lot of stuff,” Alexa said. “Our legs are giving in and, you know, we’re tired. But it doesn’t matter if it’s for a fallen officer, someone who is injured or a kid we came across who is sick. There are a lot of motivating factors that keep us going.”

Alexa said Peloquin motivated her to start running again about two years ago. This winter, you may see the two out along Tyngsboro roads training for the marathon, scheduled for April 19. The pair often race up and down Jasper Lane and along Lake Mascuppic to help their bodies adapt to the elements.

They will stay side by side in Boston, they say, to help one another cross the finish line.

Peloquin said she is “extremely nervous” for the Boston Marathon, but when she runs, she thinks of Collier and his sacrifice, and that pushes her to keep going.

“We talked about it on one of our many runs — that eventually, by our 40th birthdays, we’d run in the Boston Marathon,” she said. “It’s on our bucket lists. It’s a great cause, and we’re thinking about supporting the police officers out there, knowing we’re doing this for them.”

Team Collier Strong, with several runners on board, has raised about $1,600 so far for Collier’s scholarship fund. Peloquin and Alexa say they’re planning more Greater Lowell fundraising events in the next few weeks to support the cause as well.

Relatives of Collier declined to comment.

For information, or to find out how to donate, visit www.teamcollierstrong.com. Donations may also be mailed by check to the MIT police station at 301 Vassar St., Cambridge, MA02139, to Team Collier Strong, c/o Detective Loren Montgomery. The team’s website notes that money collected also will be donated to “The Hole in the Wall Gang,” a cause founded by actor Paul Newman to help sick children afford to attend camp.

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