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The one hundred honoree: Annika, Gabriella and Jack Johnson

Donor Story

The one hundred honoree: Annika, Gabriella and Jack Johnson

Mass General Giving

In 2013, when Jeff Johnson experienced his second recurrence of Hodgkin’s lymphoma in three years, he and his family were living in Dubai. He traveled back to Mass General to be treated by Ephraim Hochberg, MD, while his wife, Melanie, and their three children, Annika, Gabriella and Jack, stayed in Dubai. Annika and Gabriella, age 10, and Jack, age seven, weren’t just patient and resilient during this difficult chapter — they were inspiring.

They brainstormed an event they called “Thinking of You Day” and organized more than 400 students at their elementary school in Dubai to wear Red Sox colors in honor of their father and other Boston cancer patients. All three kids spoke to their classes about cancer awareness and shared their experience facing their father’s illness. They planned a card drive with their classmates, making more than 300 cards to display and give to patients in Boston. They also raised more than $3,000 from their classmates and their families to support a fund that their parents had established at the Mass General Cancer Center to provide lymphoma patients with transportation to and from treatment, medical supplies, mortgage and rent assistance, grocery cards, home necessities and other day-to-day needs. Thinking of You Day was a truly remarkable success, and a total surprise to Jeff, who wasn’t let in on any of the planning.

Says Jeff, “Our children are just normal kids; however, they have had to deal with the ups and downs of my illness for the past three and a half years which represents a good portion of their lives. With the onset of age and a greater understanding of what my illness is and what others with cancer go through, they have demonstrated so much love and compassion not only towards me, but to other patients as well, and have shown and learned such strength which will hopefully benefit them later in life.”