Kids with cancer seem to quickly understand the spirit of the new mural in the Pediatric Hematology-Oncology Unit at MassGeneral Hospital for Children (MGHfC).
“It means that there are really amazing people that care about us,” said one young patient whose handwritten words are, in fact, part of the Boston Marathon mural honoring thousands of patients, families, runners and donors who have committed to help Mass General fight for kids with cancer.
The idea for the Boston Marathon mural came from Howard Weinstein, MD, chief of the unit and founder and captain of the Mass General Marathon Team. “The mural gives us a way to showcase the marathon’s importance and share the team’s story,” Dr. Weinstein says. “With the mural, the marathon is now a continuing presence all year round, more than the race itself.”
Dollars that Matter for Kids with Cancer
Brought to life by designer Bruce Jones, Dr. Weinstein and MGHfC child life specialists Heather Peach, MS, CCLS, and Caroline Armington, MS, CCLS, the marathon mural covers a hallway in the pediatric cancer clinic. Mural visitors can follow little blue footprints to the finish line through a montage of Boston Marathon photos, art, quotes and media clippings.
One of the highlights is a photo of Kristin Santanello, the first patient-runner, who was on the 2011 Boston Marathon team. She is pictured with her dad, Dan Santanello, who was one of the members of first Mass General Marathon Team in 1998. He ran for 12 years to honor Kristin and raise awareness of childhood cancers.
Providing Critical Support for Cancer Research
Seventeen years, more than 1,300 runners and nearly $9 million later, the Boston Marathon is the single biggest fundraiser for pediatric cancer at Mass General. The marathon team’s value cannot be overstated, Dr. Weinstein says. None of this would happen without donors, especially Mass General’s biggest partner, John Hancock.
Marathon money provides the majority of the funding for the MGHfC pediatric cancer’s Child Life Program, which helps children and families manage the stress and challenges of cancer and hospital stays. Donations also fund HOPES, a Mass General program that includes massage therapy, acupuncture, and music and art therapy. Because of the marathon funds, the unit was able to offer sibling and teen support groups and create a Brain Tumor Clinic and a clinic for long term survivors.
Mass General marathon dollars provide critical support for research, where federal funding is limited. Since the marathon team was formed, cure rates for childhood cancer have improved from around 70 percent to more than 85 percent. Dr. Weinstein’s future research goals include improving our understanding of the genetic pathways underpinning the childhood cancers. This will help us develop new, more effective therapies and reduce side effects, he says.
Celebrating the Courage of Patients and Families
One wall is devoted to the Patient Partner Program, which has paired more than 700 patients and runners over the years. The program gives runners a special opportunity to connect with families and allows patient partners and their runners to draw inspiration from one another.
New patients identify with the children on the wall. Kids often touch the photos, which seem real to them. The upbeat mural celebrates the courage of the kids with cancer and families. “The mural creates community,” Ms. Peach says. “It shows what the marathon team has meant to patients, siblings, families and runners.”
The mural also recognizes the special partnership with and support from John Hancock. Funding for the Mass General mural came from the Weinstein family. “I couldn’t be happier with the mural,” Dr. Weinstein says. “It provides hope, and it’s not false hope.”
For more information about the mural, please contact us.
To support the Mass General Marathon Team: Fighting Kids’ Cancer … One Step at a Time, please donate now.