Verrier running to honor vet who lost his life

Verrier running to honor vet who lost his life

Crystal Verrier of North Smithfield plans to participate in the Run to Home Base in honor of Alex Cunniff, a Ponanganset High School graduate who lost his life to suicide last year. (Breeze photo by Lauren Clem)

NORTH SMITHFIELD – Crystal Verrier, a North Smithfield resident, will run the Fenway Park Run to Home Base this fall in honor of Alex Cunniff, a Ponaganset High School graduate and Army National Guardsman who lost his life to suicide last year.

This is the second time Verrier runs the 5K, but the first time she will run it at Fenway Park. Last year’s race, which she raised $2,500 as she prepared to run, was virtual due to COVID-19.

Run to Home Base is a partnership between the Red Sox Foundation and Massachusetts General Hospital. The race raises money to treat the invisible illnesses of veterans, including PTSD, traumatic brain injury and depression.

This year, Verrier said, she wanted to run the race in memory of a particular person. Her friend, Kelsey Pepler, was already planning to walk the Boston Tough Ruck in honor of several veterans she knew.

“She’s had some family members and friends that lost their lives to their demons,” Verrier said.

One of those friends was Alex Cunniff, a South Kingstown native who graduated from Ponaganset High School in 2012. Cunniff lost his life to suicide at the age of 25 on Feb. 14, 2020, after serving as a pilot and paratrooper in the Army National Guard.

Pepler connected her with Alex’s family, including his parents, Kristine and Keith Cunniff, and grandmother, Kathleen Perri. The family plans to join her at Fenway Park, where they’ll cross home plate together in honor of Alex.

“I have a lot of military friends and family who are active, so it just makes it closer to home,” she said.

This weekend, she and Pepler will hold a joint fundraiser at Bravo Brewing Company in Pascoag to raise money for the two events. “Pints for Vets” will feature raffles, live music and a food truck as well as indoor and outdoor seating at the brewery. Verrier said it’s the second year that Bravo, owned by Air Force veteran Chris Mishoe, has hosted a fundraiser for her participation in the race.

“Pints for Vets” will take place this Saturday, July 24, from 1 to 6 p.m. Verrier said she looks forward to meeting the Cunniff family for the first time during the event.

Run to Home Base takes place on Sept. 25 at Fenway Park.