Donor Spotlight: A Sibling Story of Strength

We want to introduce you to Garrett and Nicole Hatton, a brother and sister are running the Boston Marathon® together on April 18 to honor their father, whom they lost to suicide at the end of 2021. 

Described as a “positive force in his family and in the world” and as a diehard fan of Brigham’s mint chocolate chip ice cream, Garrett is running the marathon for the first time, and his sister Nicky, who is known for her empathy and drive, will be running the marathon for the third time. Theirs is a story of tremendous strength, courage and love.  

You have chosen this year’s Boston Marathon in remembrance of your father.  Can you tell us about your father and about some of your favorite memories with him? 

  • Garrett: I have so many great memories with my dad. He had a great, big smile, and a sarcastic sense of humor. He was always telling jokes and making people laugh. He was a person that everyone liked to be around. He was a great role model, and I learned so much from him. 

    My dad was passionate about his career and he had a lot of success. But he always put his family first. Everything he did, he did for his family. In a family of four kids, he was always able to make each one of us feel special. He had his own special relationship with each of us, and I am so grateful that he was my dad.

  • Nicky: Up at the lake was always a great time.  He had these giant speakers that he would blast music out of and dance to. He worked really hard, but he also liked to have fun and celebrate the good times.  He would blast music to annoy his friend, our neighbor next door, which would just bring him out to dance with my dad. 

    I also think of all of the times he would drive me to hockey practice at 6 am in Newton.  As someone who was working full time, very good at his job, very driven, dedicated to his family and running marathons – to wake up to drive his daughter who was kind of sub-par at hockey to a 6 am practice just shows his dedication.  I always cherish that time I had with him.

There are so many other ways that you could have chosen to remember your father.  Why are you choosing to run a marathon as the way to honor him?

  • Nicky: Our dad ran the Boston Marathon 11 times. One of those positive family memories was going to the marathon to see him. He would also fundraise for his runs.  He got me inspired to run. We wanted to do something that brings out something that he loved to do and that he spent so much time doing.  It feels like a way to connect with him and feels like a way to channel how I’m feeling into something positive.

  • Garrett:  Running was a big part of my dad’s life for a long time. I have so many great memories of watching him run down Comm Ave on Marathon Monday. I’ve always wanted to run the Boston Marathon, so I thought this was a great way to honor his memory and to commit to something that takes a ton of time. If there is ever a year that I’m going to do it, it is going to be this year. I’m going to honor my dad’s memory.  I’ll also get the benefit of having some time alone during training to think about my dad, connect with him, and to talk to friends and family about him as I do my fundraising.  This was the first year that I really had a reason to do it.

Why have you chosen to raise money for Samaritans as part of your Boston Marathon mission?  

  • Nicky:  It’s an illness that you can’t see physically, and it’s not something that comes across physically. It makes it very difficult to talk about. Supporting an organization that is taking this forward, giving people resources and educating people in the community is important to me. If what we are doing can help one person, I think it will all be worth it.

  • Garrett: My dad struggled with depression for a long time. You could tell when his depression was taking over. His depression ended up being the reason why he is not with us anymore. Suicide is so deeply painful for the ones who are closest to the person.  I wanted to run for Samaritans because if I’m running to honor my dad, what better way than to support an organization that is working to address what most impacted his life.  It was a no-brainer for me.

This year Samaritans is hosting the Breakfast for Hope with a focus on breaking the stigma that exists when it comes to speaking about mental illness and suicide. Why do you believe it’s important that we make it easier and more accepted for people to talk about these experiences?

  • Garrett: Suicide is often misunderstood. I know from firsthand experience with my dad that depression and mental health is life or death for many people. It’s not something that you can just snap out of or “don’t feel that way.” … I think it’s important for people to be able to be open and honest about mental health. You never know what impact you might have on someone else by doing that.  … If somebody asks me what happened to my dad, I tell them. To me, it’s not a shameful thing. Some people view suicide as a selfish act. …It’s really a disease that is taking their life. The more we can reduce the stigma, the more we can talk about, and the more people might be willing to get help.

How could Samaritans and our society in general involve more young people like you? What role or leadership do you believe young people can play in addressing our society’s struggle with mental illness and suicide?

  • Nicky: I think that young people are a little bit more open about talking about struggles. …I think there needs to be a group of young people who lead by example and who let people know when they are not okay and who have the resources to support people when they are not doing well.  The more education we can get out to young people, the further we will get.

What is one thing that you wish more people knew about mental illness and suicide?

  • Garrett:  My dad had everything in the world. And he knew all of that. And yet he still died by suicide. When I think about that, it’s proof 100% that this disease is no different than the ones that physically end your life like cancer.  It is very much like a cancer; it just operates in a different way.

When we see you cross that finish line, what will be going through your head?

  • Garrett: I’m hopeful I’ll feel a great sense of accomplishment, and I’m sure it will be pretty emotional because I will be thinking about my dad. I know that he will be there with me. I’ll be thinking about all of the people who supported me along the way.

  • Nicky: Accomplishing something very hard in a very hard season of my life will add to that feeling of accomplishment. The marathon is hard enough in general when you are not going through grief and loss. … I’m hopeful I can get there.