BOSTON, Mass. – A local doctor is training for his 30th Boston Marathon, leading a team that has raised more than $18 million to help children with cancer.
Dr. Howard Weinstein, director of the childhood cancer program at Massachusetts General Hospital for Children, founded the MGH marathon team, “Fighting Kids Cancer…One Step at a Time.”
Funds raised by the team since 1998 support pediatric cancer research and essential support services including child life, art and music therapy.
At 75, Weinstein said his pace is slowing down every year. But the team captain, who runs in honor of his pediatric patients, shows no signs of stopping.
“I know every pothole along the marathon course, I know every crack along Heartbreak Hill. But it doesn’t get any easier… I have, I think, hurt every moving part of my body,” Weinstein said, followed by a laugh. “Working at the clinic and seeing these children, their courage and fortitude keeps me going. It’s so hard to say, ‘No, I won’t do that again.’ »
Weinstein started the pediatric oncology team with 10 bibs from partner John Hancock. Today, more than 100 people work there, including staff, patients and family members.
Weinstein’s first patient-partner, whom he led in honor of 25 years ago, Kristin Santanello, was also the first former patient to run on the team when she crossed the line. arrived in 2011.
Santanello, who is from Swampscott, was diagnosed with leukemia aged five after his dentist noticed an abnormality in his jaw. She underwent two years of chemotherapy.
Her father Dan, grateful for his daughter’s oncology team, had run 11 marathons alongside Weinstein before passing the torch to his daughter.
“I felt I had to do something to give back the gratitude I had,” Dan Santanello said. “And being in the hands of Howard and his team here, you just can’t put a price on it.”
Over the years, the doctors, nurses and marathon team have become like family to the Santanellos.
Kristin, now 30, living in Jersey City, NJ, works as a nurse and is engaged next summer. Running the marathon was her way of thanking staff and encouraging other pediatric patients and their families.
“It was a nice way to give my hat back to the clinic which helped me get to where I was,” she said. “I think it gave a lot back to the clinic. To be able to see a former patient up there running, it gave a lot of hope to the families. This gave a lot of hope to the patients. And that’s all I wanted.
“There’s nothing more rewarding to see than parents having some sense of relief or knowing what’s happening around the corner,” his father added.
Reuniting with Weinstein on Monday at Mass General, Kristin marveled at the state of the art at the state-of-the-art clinic, with countless support services for children and families — programs she and her father have helped set up. create. The father-daughter duo raised $330,000 for the pediatric cancer program.
“It completely changed who I am,” Santanello said of being part of the marathon runner family. “It’s part of me, and it’s also one of the main reasons I became a nurse.”
Weinstein often tells people that he will stop running the day every child’s cancer is cured. The current cure rate, he said, is 85 to 90 percent.
Seeing Kristin healthy and successful is why he chose his career – and why he runs.
“To be able to run next to someone you’ve treated for cancer and see them healthy, active, and now supporting cancer research and raising funds is something truly wonderful,” Weinstein said. “It’s so heartwarming. It brings tears to my eyes when I think of someone like Kristin and all the kids who have been associated with our program.
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