Every March, the Jimmy Fund hosts something called the Extra Mile Brunch. It’s a celebration of all of the Pacesetters (people who raised $1500 or more), Team Captains, Volunteers, and Walk Heroes. The halls are lined with displays full of recognition: Lists of Pacesetters, Pacesetter teams, and the Walk Hero signs that were standing along the course from the 2015 Walk. Each walker was also given a pin this year, based on their Pacesetter level.
Starting at 11am, everyone files in and grabs some food, sitting at one of the many tables scattered throughout a ballroom at the Marriott Copley Plaza. We eat, share stories, and then listen to speakers.
After hearing from the emcee, Phil Lipof of WCVB, and the Assistant Vice President of the Jimmy Fund Walk, Zach Blackburn, the CEO of Dana-Farber speaks. Dr. Edward Benz spoke for the last time, as he’s retiring this year. Thanks to all of the generous donations, Zach was able to present Dr. Benz with a check for over $8.2 million ($8,220,993.24). It was amazing to see such a large final amount for the second year in a row.
Dr. Benz talked about Dana-Farber, his tenure as CEO, and shared some walk stories from the many years that he and his wife Peggy had completed the course. He told us about how before budget cuts, Dana-Farber had to provide 8% of their funding for research and development. Now they have to provide 25% of the funding, and our walk is a big contributor. Walk funds help to pay for more than just the research itself–past year’s funds helped to make the development of the new research space in the Longwood Center a possibility.
The next to speak was Dr. Amanda Redig, who is joining the thoracic team this year.
She spoke about how our fundraising allowed her to work with a group of MIT researchers to test a machine that they’d invented that could weigh cancer cells and track their growth patterns, all in the span of a day. They were successful in discovering that this machine would benefit people with solid cell cancers by helping to determine which treatment options would be the most effective. The data they collected will allow Dr. Redig to apply for larger grants to further this research that will hopefully help develop promising treatment options.
Finally, a fellow Pacesetter spoke. I was lucky enough to be chosen to speak at an event back in November and can attest to how nerve-wracking it can be to stand up in front of a group and tell your story. Tara Shuman, from Team Tara, was the Pacesetter chosen to speak on Sunday. I give her HUGE props…she spoke in front of about 850 more people than I did and she nailed it.
Tara’s team was actually formed by her after her successful battle with breast cancer. As a survivor, Tara decided to raise money to help people like her conquer cancer. She had a very emotional speech and I know that many of us were wiping tears from our eyes while she spoke. She told us about her journey and finished with an amazing story about her first marathon attempt as a part of the Jimmy Fund Walk. She told us about how determined she was but also how she didn’t end up finishing that day, stopping just before Kenmore Square, at Mile 25. She displayed this quote during her speech:
She told us that was what she did that day–when she got too tired, she stopped. She knew that there were thousands of people out there who would finish, and she let us all fight for her. I promise everyone in that room was very happy to do so. That being said, Tara’s a very determined individual. She packed up her family and went back into Boston the next weekend, dressed in her team t-shirt and all, in order to finish the walk. They parked near a car with the license plate “TARA”, which was absolutely a good omen, and was surprised by her teammates at the finish line. I’m not going to lie, that part of her story had me tearing up all over again.
Her story is powerful and motivating because not only does it show that survivors are such strong people, but it also shows that they are good people. They’re people who want to give back. Tara, and many others who have had a journey like hers, are a huge part of why I walk. When she was declared a survivor, she had a young son (who is now 8 years old). Knowing that advances in medicine have given him many more years with her is such an inspiration to keep up the fundraising, the walking, and the promotion of this amazing charity.
After Tara’s speech, awards were given to people who had raised a boatload of money over the years both individually, and as teams. The numbers were astonishing. Amazing. Overwhelming. It wasn’t just the totals that were impressive, either. There were attendees who have been walking for all 27 years.
The Extra Mile Brunch is a part of why I strive to be a Pacesetter, because you get to learn so much about the people who dedicate themselves to the Jimmy Fund and conquering cancer. You get to hear about the brand new facilities it can create, the research that can be supported, and the families it keeps whole. It’s a great way to kick off the walk season and I’m glad I was able to attend once again.