On April 16, 2018, 102 runners will participate in the 122nd Boston Marathon on behalf of MassGeneral Hospital for Children (MGHfC). These individuals support clinical and lab research, Brain Tumor and Long-term survivor programs, child life programs and mental health services that enhance the quality of life for the hospital’s youngest cancer patients. This year marks the 21st anniversary of John Hancock’s partnership with the Mass General Marathon Program, providing Mass General with 100 bib numbers for the race, allowing the hospital to raise more than $13 million.

Growing up in Massachusetts, Matt Angelico always dreamed of running the Boston Marathon. Seeing his mother's exceptional care at MGH gave him the push to take on 26.2.

What inspired you to join the Fighting Kids’ Cancer... One Step at a Time team?
My motivation to join the team is twofold.  At age 16, I began volunteering at a camp for children with life threatening illnesses and their families.  Camp Sunshine acts a vacation for families free of charge.  At camp, I saw first hand how cancer takes a vice-grip on families’ lives and flips them upside down.  Next summer will be my 10th year volunteering! 

In college, I was heavily involved with Terp Thon, a yearlong student-run fundraising organization culminated in a 12-hour dance marathon that raises money and awareness for Children's National Health System in Washington, D.C.  My experience with Terp Thon allowed me to become close to Miracle Children, our Champions - children fighting cancer at Children's National.  I am still involved with Terp Thon today on the Alumni Executive Board.  The “Fighting Kids’ Cancer... One Step at a Time” team provides me with the opportunity to continue to pursue this passion in my life, helping children in need. 

Secondly, Mass General saved my mom’s life.  I remember everything about the moment I heard the news.  I was working at Sudbury Farms and felt my cell phone vibrate.  I decided to ignore it, thinking it was a friend wanting to hang out.  Then, I checked my phone only to find 3 missed calls from my mom.  Calling her back, it felt like two bags of sand fell on my shoulders.  She was diagnosed with breast cancer and quickly referred to the Avon Cancer Center at Mass General.  Barbara Smith, MD, director of the Breast Program and co-director of the Women's Cancers Program, removed my mom’s cancer. She  mom still visits the Avon Cancer Center yearly for a checkup and I am happy to report she is now 6 years’ cancer free.  I owe a lot to Dr. Smith and the Avon Cancer Center staff and I am truly humbled and honored to run and fundraise for an organization that gave me so much.

Is this your first marathon?
This is my first marathon.  Growing up in Massachusetts, it’s been a dream to run the Boston Marathon and I figured why not make it my first one!

What will you be thinking about on race day?
Anything that takes my mind off my legs! Seriously though, I ‘ll be thinking about the sheer number of runners taking on such a difficult challenge to benefit causes near their hearts. The kids at the Mass General Pediatric Unit fighting for their lives and my teams will be my motivation. We’re accomplishing this together.  I can’t wait to see my supporters traveling from to cheer me on. Most importantly, I’ll be thinking about my mom and her fight with breast cancer - that has always been my strongest motivator and I hope it proves true on race day. 

Are there lessons you’ve learned from someone touched by cancer and from training for the marathon?
I have become close with many families touched by cancer through Camp Sunshine and Terp Thon.  The biggest thing I learned from them and from my mother is to “roll with the punches.”  Life doesn't always turn out the way you want it. You must stay positive, stay hungry and keep fighting.  My marathon training continues to teach me every day.  It takes time and a massive amount of self-determination to accomplish something of his magnitude.  With three shorter runs a week and a long run on the weekend, you need to prioritize training or the runs won’t happen.  This means missing time with friends, giving up sleep and choosing to go to bed very early for those morning runs.  The hardest miles are the ones from the bed to the front door, it’s all about self-determination.   Dreams are meant to be achieved.  I've been dreaming of running this race ever since I was a small child.  If all goes according to plan, come April, I will have one less dream.

This story is part of a series that MGH will publish in advance of the 2018 marathon featuring the Pediatric Oncology and Emergency Response Teams. In addition, individuals will run for the Miles for Mass General Program, which raises funds for hospital programs that are close to their hearts – including Botswana Oncology Global Outreach, Caring for a Cure, Cystic Fibrosis, Down Syndrome and the Lurie Center for Autism.