To Make a Donation to the 2016 team

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Friday, February 27, 2015


This year, I will be running for the first time for an In-Memory Family with the Dana-Farber Marathon Challenge.  Many of my DFMC teammates come to the team with their own special connection to cancer and their very personal reason to want to support Innovative Cancer Research.   Additionally, each year runners can apply to be matched with a Patient Partner (current or former Dana-Farber pediatric patient) or an In-Memory Family (family of a pediatric patient who passed away as a result of this terrible disease).  After speaking with the program coordinator this year, I decided to apply for the In-Memory program and have been matched with the family of Jesse, a young boy who passed away just over a year ago from neuroblastoma.

Our family had the opportunity to meet Jesse's family a couple of weeks ago at the DFMC In-Memory Dinner.  We met his mom, dad and brother:  Suzy, Jeff and Colton, who were so kind and easy to talk with and get to know.   It was an informal way to get to know each other a little bit, and for me to learn a little bit more about this brave boy for whom I am incredibly humbled to have been matched. Jesse was diagnosed at age 3 and passed away at age 7.  All of those years, he never stopped treatment and was never in remission.  For four years, he endured chemo and doctor's appointments and hospital stays and all of the side effects, in between enjoying all the things that 4 and 5 and 6 year old boys love like Legos and playing outside.  And superheroes, most of all Batman.  He dreamed of becoming a police officer and was made an honorary officer by a local town.  The love he inspired was of heroic proportions in his community as told by the local newspaper article in the Middlebourough Enterprise.  While I mostly wish that there didn't have to be an In-Memory program and families who have experienced the loss of a young child, what an honor it is for me to run this year for Jesse and to share the DFMC team with his family this year in our joint mission to find treatments and cures for all types of cancer.

The In-Memory dinner was such a moving evening shared with other families and runners, and for us, the first time to hear more about the In-Memory program from people who have been involved for a long time.  There were families who have been a part of the program for many years, and others, like us, who were there for the first time.  In fact, the speaker is a young woman whose family began their affiliation with the program many years prior as an In-Memory family.  She lost her brother to cancer when she was much younger, but now as a young adult is a DFMC runner and teammate.  She requested to be matched with an In-Memory family because the program was so meaningful to her family over the years and in addition to joining the team as a runner, she wanted to also participate on the other side.  I tell you, this is a team that continues to draw you back in many different ways, whether it be as a runner or volunteer or fan.  We draw strength from each other to achieve our goals.

One of the most special parts of running for DFMC is that we get to meet people and spend time with others who have felt or are feeling similarly, who have shared experiences.  While it may seem sad, I feel it is the opposite.  It’s so healing and therapeutic to know that we are all purposed to achieve the same goal in honor of those we love.  As Suzy and I talked about, it's a safe, comfortable place to talk openly and freely about loved ones and about cancer without worry.  I hope that by becoming involved with DFMC that Jesse’s family can feel some of the same inspiration and support that I have felt through my years being involved.  I look forward to sharing more about Jesse throughout the rest of the season, and know that his bravery and strength will inspire me throughout this training season and beyond.  In the meantime, you can learn more about Jesse and his family by visiting their foundation's webpage: or their Facebook page: Jesse Heikkila Foundation

As I head out to our group run on another sub-zero morning, it is these all of these children in the In-Memory and Patient Partner programs that make this run worthwhile. In the big picture, these cold mornings and long runs are nothing.  What truly is something is kids like Jesse.  The theme for today's group run is Superheroes in honor of all of those for whom we run.  They are Superheroes to us.  My run today is for Jesse and his family.  It's nothing short of a privilege to be his representative on this team.

Be good. Be strong.

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