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Running for Smiles and Gratitude

Sarah Mannion and new baby Beau

Donor Story

Running for Smiles and Gratitude

Sarah Mannion ran the virtual Boston Marathon in honor of Mass General and the treatment of her son, who has a cleft lip and palate.

Albert McKeon
January 8, 2021

Free to choose her own virtual 26-mile route of the 2020 Boston Marathon, Sarah Mannion wanted to make sure that one of the points of interest she passed along the way was the Cleft and Craniofacial Center at MassGeneral Hospital for Children (MGHfC).

The center, a collaboration of MGHfC and Shriners Hospital for Children, is where Sarah’s 20-month-old son Beau, has had several surgeries to repair a cleft lip and palate, a congenital condition that has prevented the roof of his mouth and lips from fully closing.

Pausing her run outside the center, on the Mass General campus in Boston, Sarah took in cheers and accepted hugs from Beau; her husband, Gill; three-year-old son, Gill, Jr.; and family members and friends. A fourth surgery — another stop in Beau’s long journey to full recovery — was only weeks away at this very hospital, but on this sunny Sunday in September, the stopover was all about appreciation.

Running the iconic marathon, Sarah had raised more than $11,500 for the Mass General Emergency Response Department — for its life-saving treatment of Beau immediately after his birth — and $3,000 for the Cleft and Craniofacial Center. She wanted to acknowledge the staff of the two departments and show appreciation for their care of Beau.

“Things have not been easy, to say the least, but Sarah is one of the most positive people I know. She is a great mom and patient advocate.”

“They are like our second family,” Sarah said of Mass General staff members, weeks after completing the marathon. “They have gone above and beyond for us. They’re sympathetic and caring and make sure we have all the support we need.”

A long Journey for Beau

The Mannions, who live in Braintree, Massachusetts, have leaned on the staff of MGHfC and Shriners as Beau has received treatment for a variety of health issues. Born with a low level of surfactant, a liquid produced by the lungs to keep open airways, Emergency Response members rushed Beau to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at MGHfC immediately after birth, efforts that Sarah didn’t forget when she was fundraising.

Beau was hospitalized three months after birth because he couldn’t hold down food. Two months after that, he had the first of three surgeries to repair his cleft lip and palate, a procedure that included the insertion of a feeding tube. He had the tube removed in October during his most recent surgery, which mended a hole that had stretched from his mouth to his naval cavity. Eating had become difficult, especially with his baby teeth coming in, but is now easier after the procedure, said Eric Liao, MD, PhD, director of the Cleft and Craniofacial Center, chief research officer of its Department of Surgery, and the Laurie and Mason Tenaglia MGH Research Scholar 2018-2023. Beau will require more surgery in about six years.

Sarah, Gill, Gill Jr. and Beau Mannion
Sarah, Gill, Gill Jr. and Beau Mannion

“They are a really wonderful family,” Dr. Liao said of the Mannion family. “Things have not been easy, to say the least, but Sarah is one of the most positive people I know. She is a great mom and patient advocate.” He added that Sarah’s marathon fundraising “will directly support our team, in continuing medical education for our team members and our clinical and basic research, so that we can improve care for current and future patients.”

Miles and Smiles

Sarah participated in the marathon as one of the many members of the 2020 Mass General Marathon Team that raised money and awareness for several causes that benefit the hospital’s medical programs.

She chose to start her virtual run at the 20-mile mark of the usual Marathon route, where the famed Heartbreak Hill starts in Newton, Massachusetts, and ended it in just under six hours at her front door in Braintree. Meeting her family and Beau was just the boost she needed to finish the race.

“His attitude, considering everything he’s been through, is amazing,” Sarah said of Beau. “He is not afraid of anybody. He goes up to strangers in stores or when we’re outside walking. He always has a smile on his face. It’s crazy to think about all that he’s gone through.”

To learn more about the Cleft and Craniofacial Center at Mass General and/or support the work of Dr. Liao and his team, please contact us.

John Hancock-Mass General Boston Marathon® Partnership Continues to Make a Powerful Difference

Because of John Hancock’s generosity, Mass General received entries for the 2020 Boston Marathon. Runners fundraised for Pediatric Cancer, Emergency Medicine, and Home Base.

  • Mass General’s Pediatric Cancer Team | The team was created in 1998 to support pediatric hematology-oncology at MassGeneral Hospital for Children. Funds are directed to cancer care and research that lead to improvements in cure rates and enhance patients’ quality of life.
  • Mass General Emergency Response Team | The team was created in 2014, in recognition of the lifesaving response of hospital employees following the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings. Funds support training and resources needed to advance emergency preparedness and disaster medicine efforts.
  • Home Base Team | The team was created in 2019. Funds support a Mass General-Boston Red Sox Foundation program that provides veterans, active service members and families with world-class clinical care, wellness and education, and helps advance research.
John Hancock provides bib numbers for the Boston Marathon to Mass General runners.
John Hancock provides bib numbers for the Boston Marathon to Mass General runners.

Additionally, through the Run for MGH Team, runners who acquired their own 2020 Boston Marathon entries raised funds for Mass General programs like Caring for a Cure, Cystic Fibrosis, Down Syndrome and the Mootha Lab. To learn more about the Mass General Boston Marathon Program, please visit our website.

The John Hancock Marathon Non-Profit Program

Mass General is proud to be an official Partner of John Hancock in the Marathon Non-Profit Program. The Non-Profit Program provides more than 1,000 Boston Marathon bibs to select non-profit organizations throughout the community. This provides organizations with a significant fundraising opportunity. Last year, John Hancock Non-Profit Runners raised more than $13.1 million for their causes.