BENEFITING: Joe Andruzzi Foundation
ORGANIZER: Joe Andruzzi Foundation
EVENT: 2017 Boston Marathon
EVENT DATE: Apr 17, 2017
There are so many motivating forces driving me to run the Boston Marathon this year – and, really, my inspiration comes from three anniversaries that coincide with the 2017 race.
Fifteen years ago, well before the Joe Andruzzi Foundation existed, my husband Joe and I lost a dear friend, CJ Buckley, to brain cancer at the young age of 17. Joe and I first met CJ in 2001, only a month after his diagnosis, at a New England Patriots training camp practice. We were immediately in awe of CJ’s positive disposition and infectious smile, and in the months that followed we were blessed to be able to spend many visits with him at home and later in the hospital. In no time the Buckleys became extended family members of our's. Years later, Joe and I named our fifth child “CJ” in his honor – needless to say, we are reminded of his positive spirit each day.
In 2003, months after his passing and still reeling from the hole left in our hearts, we wanted to do something to take action. To show our continued love and support for C.J.’s family, Joe and I started the C.J. Buckley Brain Cancer Research Fund at Boston Children’s Hospital. Establishing the Fund, which supports the groundbreaking work of Dr. Mark Kieran, was our way of working towards a time when no child suffers from brain cancer.
The Fund has since been adopted within the Joe Andruzzi Foundation, and will be the sole beneficiary of my 2017 Boston Marathon fundraising.
That leads into the second anniversary I’m running the 2017 Boston Marathon in memory of.
In 2007 – 10 years ago – Joe was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s Burkitt’s lymphoma, predicted to double in size within 24 hours. At the time, Joe had just finished playing for the Cleveland Browns, and within days our entire family packed up and moved back east to be closer to the best hospitals in the world.
Joe immediately started aggressive chemotherapy treatment at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Brigham and Women’s Hospital – fighting the disease with the strength and courage he learned from CJ. Throughout several months of treatment, it was Carter and Lucy Buckley – CJ’s parents – who were right there by our side. It was like some cruel type of déjà vu.
Later that year Joe was told that there was no sign of cancer in his body and remains cured today. Our family was given a second lease on life, and Joe and I decided to dedicate our time towards helping less fortunate families battling cancer. In 2008, the Joe Andruzzi Foundation was born, and we haven’t looked back since.
Ten years in remission is a tremendous milestone in the cancer community, and Joe’s incredible will and determination will be with me with each stride on Marathon Monday.
The third milestone that is inspiring me to run the 2017 Boston Marathon is the five-year anniversary of the Stem Cell transplant that saved the life of my dear friend, Amy Garofalo.
In the Spring of 2011 (well before we met) Amy – a vibrant and active mother– was diagnosed at the young age of 45 with Multiple Myeloma, an incurable blood cancer. And so began a daunting stretch for Amy, her husband Mike, and their two young boys.
In April of 2012, after a full year of intense chemo, Amy was admitted to Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston for a Stem Cell transplant, followed by two weeks of isolation in the hospital to recover – a time that happened to coincide with the 2012 Boston Marathon.
Later that October the Joe Andruzzi Foundation received an email from Amy’s sister-in-law who was putting together a fundraiser for the Garofalo’s. Mike’s sister knew Joe’s story about winning three Super Bowls and then his battle with cancer, and wanted to know if we could donate an autographed football for their auction.
As the story goes, Amy was so touched that we sent an autographed football to support her that she decided to donate a portion of the event’s fundraising back to the Joe Andruzzi Foundation. Amy and Mike drove the donation all the way up from Connecticut to JAF’s then-headquarters in Mansfield, MA, and upon meeting for the first time we immediately hit-it-off. From that day forward in 2012 Amy and Mike Garofalo started attending and supporting as many Joe Andruzzi Foundation events as they could.
One of those events happened to be our Foundation’s 2013 Boston Marathon Watch Party and Fundraiser at Forum restaurant on Boylston Street. Marathon Monday 2013 was supposed to be a one-year anniversary celebration of Amy’s Stem Cell transplant – what some patients call a “re-birthday” or “transplantaversary”. Instead, the day was marred by horrific bombings, one of which occurred right outside our Foundation’s event – just steps from Amy and Mike.
As fate would have it, Amy and Mike's two teenage sons were inside of Forum at the time of the blast, unharmed. The couple sustained cuts and bruises, and Mike ruptured both of his eardrums, but ultimately the Garofalo family was okay. Others in and around Forum were not as fortunate, though, and the event itself brought the Garofalos and other JAF supporters in attendance even closer together.
In late 2016, Mike received word from the One Fund Community that they would like to give him an invitational entry into the 2017 Boston Marathon. Mike – who had “retired” from running for nearly two decades because of severe calf-cramping issues – was initially skeptical that he could withstand the grueling marathon training.
Though I did not have an entry at the time, I promised Mike that I would train alongside him in honor of Amy’s five-year Stem Cell anniversary. We’ve been pushing each other ever since, and now, thanks to Acura of Peabody, we’ll both be meeting Amy at the finish line on Marathon Monday – passing by the tragic Forum bombing site along the way.