Los Angeles Marathon officials have expanded the charity program for the 2010 race to help 60 nonprofit organizations, including Santa Monica-based Heal the Bay, raise funds for their various causes.

The larger charity program is in line with the vision of mara-thon owner Frank McCourt, who believes the marathon has the potential to be a huge philanthropic force in the community, race officials say. In addition to the increased program, the 2010 marathon has also changed its route, beginning at Dodger Stadium and ending near the beach in Santa Monica for the first time.

McCourt says he envisions a time when every marathon participant will raise charitable dollars for critical environmental, community and health-related causes.

Based on this long-range goal, McCourt, who last year became steward of the race, asked marathon organizers to make the charitable component of the race a much higher priority. The result is a program that is nearly 50 percent larger and significantly revamped to provide non-profits the tools and incentives to expand participation and fundraising, officials said.

“Expanding our charity program is a natural extension of our mission statement, which is ‘to inspire athletes and connect communities,’” said LA Marathon President Russ Pillar. “We look forward to enabling our runners to make ever-increasing charitable contributions this coming year and in the many years ahead.”

Under the direction of a new executive who is managing the charity program, participating non-profits are receiving more assistance to grow their race-related fundraising efforts. Longtime participants such as Team in Training and AIDS Marathon are also mentoring non-profits seeking assistance.

These efforts have helped draw new participants, such as Heal the Bay, which works to keep Southern California coastal waters safe, healthy and clean. President Mark Gold pointed out that the new “Stadium to the Sea” course reminds people of the connections between Los Angeles and the ocean that has drawn so many people here.

“With the finish line just a few short blocks away from the Santa Monica Pier, I can’t think of a better partner than the Los Angeles Marathon to support us in our mission to protect the Santa Monica Bay,” Gold said. “We’re excited to work with the organizers to help green the race and increase community environmental stewardship.”

Other new participants include A Better L.A., a Los Angeles-based anti-violence, community-building non-profit that was co-founded by USC football Coach Pete Carroll.

Marathon officials say they anticipate that thousands of runners will be raising funds for educational, health and other philanthropic organizations.

Information, www.lamarathon.com/.

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