Running for a Worthy Cause

Running for a Worthy Cause
Heartland Farm Sanctuary volunteer Kelly Parrish with her sponsored goat Butch.

Running a marathon is a huge accomplishment, but add in a climate like Antarctica and we’re talking seriously accomplished. Kelly Parrish is a Madison native who will get closer to her goal of running 26.2 miles on all seven continents this month when she travels to Antarctica. Kelly decided to make her marathon even more unique by using her expedition to raise money for the local nonprofit Heartland Farm Sanctuary. As a dedicated volunteer, Kelly has combined her passion for running and animals into one extreme goal.    

Madison Magazine: Describe your involvement with Heartland Farm Sanctuary.

Kelly Parrish: I first heard about Heartland Farm Sanctuary a few years ago when they were looking for volunteers for a work day at their barn. Since then, I’ve helped with projects like building fences, cleaning and winterizing the barn, selling fundraiser coffee, and setting up for the annual gala. I also sponsor an adorable goat named Butch.

MM: What has been the most beneficial element of this organization for you?

KP: I’ve lived in town my whole life, so volunteering with Heartland has given me the opportunity to learn fun new skills like fence building and stall mucking. And, of course, I love being around the animals. Every animal at Heartland has a unique story and personality, and I love getting to know them. Lots of the animals have their personal stories on Heartland’s website for people to learn about.

MM: Heartland sounds like a great way for you to give back. How has Heartland enhanced the Madison community as a whole?

KP: So many ways! Heartland takes in farm animals that have nowhere else to go, and many of them become therapy animals for kids and adults. Kids who come to the barn through school programs or who attend one of Heartland’s summer camps form a bond with the animals while learning important life skills. Heartland also takes animals to area nursing homes so that people who can’t come to the barn can still benefit from interaction with the animals.

MM: Did being in Madison make Heartland and its programs more possible than attempting to participate in another city?

KP: Definitely. When I volunteered for a work day at Heartland for the first time, I didn’t know where the barn was. Because it turned out to be so close, a one-day event turned into repeated volunteering. I was even able to help organize a couple volunteer days where some of my co-workers and I went to Heartland and built chicken runs so that the chickens could safely spend time outside.

MM: How did your goal of running a marathon on all seven continents emerge?

KP: I started running marathons in 2007 and did the Paris marathon in 2008. After that I started to have an idea to run on more continents and when I traveled to Australia I ran another race. So I decided I might as well keep trying to run races when I travel and hit all seven continents. I’ve been working on my goal of running on all seven continents for about six years. Antarctica will be my fifth continent.

MM: How are you training for this marathon?

KP: Well this Madison winter provides the perfect environment to train in. When I go to Antarctica it will be their summer so the temperature will range anywhere from 0-40 degrees. I’ve been able to figure out what clothing works best in different weather and feel pretty prepared for most conditions that I could encounter.

MM: Why did you decide to do something ‘extreme’ to raise awareness and money for this cause?

KP: I realized that running a marathon in Antarctica is a little weird – or at least not something many people do – and I thought, if I’m going to do something unusual like that, I should make it count. So I decided to start my Marathon for Heartland fundraiser. I love that Heartland helps both people and animals. The animals get a loving place to call home, and kids and adults get a chance to form a therapeutic bond with those animals through Heartland’s camps and programs. Everybody wins!

Kelly will run her marathon in Antarctica on March 9, 2014. To help Kelly raise money for Heartland Farm Sanctuary donate at her website To learn more about Heartland Farm Sanctuary visit