Friday, March 13, 2015

Weinstein looks forward to his 25th marathon

MARATHON MOTIVATIONS ARE MANY: Weinstein with patient partner, Annie Flaherty

At 68, running may have slowed down a bit for Howard Weinstein, MD, chief of the Hematology-Oncology Unit at MassGeneral Hospital for Children (MGHfC), but his passion for the Mass General Marathon Team “Fighting Kids Cancer ... One Step at a Time” continues to grow. This April will mark Weinstein’s 25th time running the Boston Marathon and 17th as captain of the MGH team supporting pediatric hematology-oncology.

He completed his first Boston Marathon in 1990, achieving a long-held goal. As a child, Weinstein suffered from asthma and could not run much further than a mile. When the asthma stopped, running was possible. “I was motivated to continue, but I wanted to do more than run,” he says. “I wanted to combine it with a fundraising effort.”

When Weinstein was recruited to lead the MGH Pediatric Hematology-Oncology Program in 1996, he already had completed seven Boston races and was motivated to build a marathon team to support all aspects of pediatric cancer. “I started our team to honor our brave young patients who face their own marathons each and every day as they struggle to live long and healthy lives,” he says. Funds from the Boston Marathon team support child life specialists, who help families manage the stress that illness and hospitalization can bring, as well as music and art therapy programs. With severe cuts in federal grant funding, the money also helps advance research to develop innovative treatments.

Thanks to John Hancock, the MGH obtained charity bib numbers for 10 runners in the 1998 Boston Marathon, and “Fighting Kids Cancer ... One Step at a Time” raised $45,000, which generated enthusiasm and momentum. Since then, the MGH’s partnership with John Hancock has grown, and the team has expanded to its current size of more than 100 runners.

Many runners on the team participate in the Patient-Partner Program, a special opportunity to be paired with a pediatric patient. This year, Weinstein will run for Annie Flaherty, 5, who was diagnosed with neuroblastoma – an aggressive form of cancer. “She never fails to sparkle and make us laugh,” Weinstein says. “I’m in awe of her courage and energy. I’m not able to train as much as I should, but thinking about Annie will motivate me to finish.”

Weinstein understands the urgency of marathon funds for children who suffer from cancer – he has personally raised $1.2 million to support the Pediatric Hematology-Oncology Program at MGHfC. “I am so grateful for the support from our runners and donors who are dedicated to our team,” Weinstein says. “The 25th is not my last – I will run as long as I’m physically able or until we cure all children of cancer.”

For more information about this year’s team, click here.

Read more articles from the 03/13/15 Hotline issue.


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