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Scenes from The University of Rhode Island

Fall River man running to help URI community

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KINGSTON, R.I. -- October 27, 2004 -- Peter Nassoit, a website/graphic designer from Fall River, Mass., will run the New York City marathon on Nov. 7 with a special purpose: to raise funds for the Heather Fund. The non-profit fund was established in memory of his cousin, Heather Vennewald, who took her own life while a student at URI.

The fund provides support for the prevention and treatment of depression and suicide for the University of Rhode Island community.

Finding the time to train, getting adequate sleep and nutrition, and dealing with the ever-present aches and pains has not been easy. Yet it has been a rewarding experience.

“Along with the physical benefits of running,” says 30-year-old Nassoit, “it’s been proven that exercise is one of the most effective means of treating psychological disorders such as depression. I have suffered from mild depression in the past and found exercise one of the best ways to overcome those feelings. The natural connection to the Heather Fund was undeniable and made perfect sense.”

The two cousins grew up in New Jersey about 20 minutes away from each other. They were the same age. “Heather was a fun loving, outwardly social person with a great sense of humor. She and her brother and sister had lots of friends throughout high school and in college. She was loved by everyone,” Nassoit says.

URI’s Counseling Center uses fund monies for outreach programs such as campus depression screenings, training programs for faculty, residence hall staff and student leaders, as well as for videos, pamphlets, and other informational materials.

“The Heather Fund helps URI’s Counseling Center serve as a safe place where students can go to get help without the fear of being judged,” says Jim Campbell, director of the URI Counseling Center. “Peter’s offer of help is a remarkable act of generosity. He has been able to convert sadness into hope for others.”

“I won’t say that I’m a great athlete by any stretch of the imagination,” Nassoit says. “I’ve been a biker, both mountain biking and road biking since I was a child. But running was an entirely foreign activity to me. Before I started training, I had never run more than 100 yards. I knew that I could get used to running and wouldn’t have much of a problem sustaining it through the summer. But a marathon? That’s a whole other beast. After all, 26.2 miles is a long way to travel on two feet.”

Intent on going the distance, Nassoit has designed a logo, business cards, and a website,, and sent out a fundraising letter to family and friends.

Anyone wishing to donate to the Heather Fund can send a check and mail to: The Heather Fund, c/o The URI Foundation, 79 Upper College Rd., Kingston, R.I. 02881 or by donating online at