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The one hundred honoree: Steven Branfman

Donor Story

The one hundred honoree: Steven Branfman

Mass General Giving

Since losing his oldest son Jared to a malignant brain tumor, master potter and cycling enthusiast Steven Branfman has expressed his grief in the forms most natural to him.

A week after Jared died in September 2005 at the age of 23, Steven retreated to his studio and found himself making a chawan, a Japanese-style tea bowl. The next day he made seven more; he went on to create one each day for a year. They were the only pots he made that year. This spontaneous grieving ritual mirrored Steven’s family’s religious practice of attending temple each day to recite Kaddish, the Jewish mourner’s prayer.

For nine years, those 365 chawan sat unglazed in his studio. In 2015, on the tenth anniversary of Jared’s death, the time had come to finish them. Steven presented them to the public for the first time in an exhibit entitled, “A Father’s Kaddish.” Steven and his family decided to sell the bowls and contribute the proceeds to cycling events supporting cancer research, including the LIVESTRONG Challenge, the Boston Brain Tumor Ride, and most notably the Pan-Mass Challenge (PMC).

Steven has led Team Kermit in the PMC since 2004. During those first two rides, Jared, who took Kermit the Frog’s “It’s Not Easy Bein’ Green” anthem as his mantra for battling cancer, volunteered as a bicycle mechanic while in a wheelchair. Over the past 12 years, the team has raised $2.6 million for the Jared Branfman Sunflowers for Life Fund for Pediatric Brain and Spinal Cancer Research at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.