It’s funny, but you never know when the paths in your life will cross. I started working at MassGeneral Hospital for Children a few months ago doing childhood obesity research. I knew from my years running the Boston Marathon that MGH had a marathon charity team, though nothing more. Recently, a running connection introduced me over email to the program’s champion, Dr. Howard Weinstein. So I walked down to his office last week to meet him in person and learn more about the team.
Dr. Weinstein is the chief of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology at MGHfC and the team raises money to support his department. Dr. Weinstein himself has run 24 consecutive Boston Marathons and he doesn’t sound like he has plans of stopping anytime soon. It’s hard not to root for a team that raises money to combat childhood cancer, though as it turns out, they do much more.
When the team began in 1998, its purpose was to honor the patients at MGHfC. And while the team has grown from 10 runners that first year to over 150 this year, that goal remains. Many of the runners apply to participate in the Patient Partner Program. The program takes the matching process seriously, involving a child life specialist and psychologist to help determine the pairs. Several of the runners were once patients themselves.
The runners may meet their patient matches several times throughout the season, but the highlight is the team pasta dinner that takes place marathon weekend. At the dinner, a medal ceremony is held where runners honor their patient matches by giving them a medal that is in fact made by the same jewelers that make the marathon medals.
Patients, their parents and the hospital staff can all feel part of the team thank to the mural that covers one of the hallways in the Hematology/Oncology unit at the hospital. The idea for the mural came in early 2013, and after a lot of meetings sorting through photographs and newspaper clippings, the design was developed and it was hung on the hospital walls on Columbus Day 2013.
For patients, and the clinicians too, the mural is a brief escape from what usually takes place in the hospital unit. For the runners, the marathon is a test of endurance, like that which their patient partners exhibit every day. And that’s why on April 21st, the Mass General Marathon team will be fighting cancer one step at a time.
If you’d like to donate to the Mass General Marathon team, click here.
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