Charity – Communities making a difference for local hospitals

December 08, 2015
by Aine Cryts, Contributing Reporter
As they do every year, many of them toughed it out for the 26.2 miles from Hopkinton, Mass., to Boston. Unlike the more than 30,000 runners who converge on Massachusetts every April to run in the Boston Marathon, these 9,000 walkers weren’t in pursuit of their fastest time — or a gold medal.

On Sept. 27, participants in the Boston Marathon Jimmy Fund Walk laced up their walking shoes to raise money for Boston’s Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, which treats all forms of adult and pediatric cancers and describes itself as a leader in innovative cancer research. Raising more than $100 million during its 27-year history, the Boston Marathon Jimmy Fund Walk raises the most money of any single-day walk in the nation, according to Dana-Farber.

“[The walk] energizes me to build relationships with such passionate people, who care about doing good,” said Zach Blackburn, assistant vice president of the Boston Marathon Jimmy Fund Walk. “They’re walking in honor of a loved one or a colleague, or for themselves.”

Participants don’t have to walk all 26.2 miles of the Boston Marathon route to participate. They can also choose from a 13.1- mile route, a 5-mile route or a 3-mile route. The Jimmy Fund, which organizes the walk each year, traces its history to 1948 and a patient named Einar Gustafson — the original “Jimmy” — who was a 12-year-old patient of Dr. Sidney Farber, founder of Dana-Farber. During his treatment, Gustafson (who was given the name “Jimmy” to protect his identity) wanted a TV in his room at Dana-Farber so he could watch the Boston Braves, his favorite baseball team.

The original “Jimmy” was interviewed on a national radio program called “Truth or Consequences,” which was broadcast from his hospital room. At the end of the show, listeners were asked to send money so Gustafson could buy a TV. He got his TV — and listeners also sent more than $200,000, which led to the start of the Jimmy Fund.

The money raised by the Boston Marathon Jimmy Fund Walk goes in equal parts to research and patient care, according to Blackburn. The walk attracts support from New England and beyond. People around the country can donate to the Boston Marathon Jimmy Fund Walk by visiting This year’s walk was expected to raise more than $8.2 million by Oct. 31.

Raising awareness about breast reconstruction after breast cancer surgery
A lot of people think about the color pink during the month of October, which is breast cancer awareness month, said Dr. Carolyn De La Cruz, assistant professor of plastic surgery at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and chair of Breast Reconstruction Awareness (or “BRA”) Day Pittsburgh.

What most people don’t think about is breast reconstruction after breast cancer surgery. That’s precisely the reason that De La Cruz decided to get involved in BRA Day USA about four years ago. Since then, BRA Day Pittsburgh has raised about $20,000. A portion of that money goes to support BRA Day USA, whereas the remainder is used locally for education and awareness events. Organized on a national level by the American Society of Plastic Surgeons and the Plastic Surgery Foundation, BRA Day USA provides an opportunity to educate communities around the country about the ability to reconstruct the breast after total mastectomies due to a breast cancer diagnosis, said De La Cruz.

If you’ve had to lose your whole breast, it’s harder to get on with things, she said. Still, only 20 percent of women fully understand their breast reconstruction options, according to BRA Day USA. “Women think they’re vain [to consider breast reconstruction]. Women in general learn to live with it. That’s women’s nature,” said De La Cruz. BRA Day Pittsburgh 2015, which took place at Pittsburgh’s Andy Warhol Museum on Oct. 21, featured an art show with mannequin busts created by local artists, some of whom are breast cancer survivors. The event included performances by a modern dance and live music ensemble called the Attack Theatre, and the Pittsburgh Dance Company. Money was raised from tickets purchased for the event and the sale of mannequins.

As Robert F. Kennedy once put it, “The purpose of life is to contribute in some way to making things better.” Maybe it’s creating a piece of art or attending an event — or adding mileage to your walking shoes. However you can help further the mission of your local hospital, it’s time to contribute.