I’ve been riding in the Pan-Massachusetts Challenge (aka “the PMC”) since 2002. The PMC raises money for cancer research, treatment, and education at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute (DFCI) and The Jimmy Fund. In 2004, along with my dear friends Steven, Ellen, Adam Branfman, and others, we created Team Kermit, named after the favorite Sesame Street character of Jared Branfman, the eldest Branfman son battling the insidious disease of cancer.
The Jared Branfman Sunflowers for Life Fund was founded in 2006 in Jared’s memory. He passed away in 2005 from a rare form of pediatric brain cancer at age 23. Since the founding of Team Kermit we have raised more than $975,000 dollars for Jared’s fund and ridden our bikes tens of thousands of miles. Here is another chapter in our story. Thanks to my friend and teammate Angus McQuilken, Vice President for Communications, Massachusetts Life Sciences Center, for letting me borrow from his team email and for the team photo.
On January 21st eleven members of Team Kermit visited DFCI and The Jimmy Fund. Angus did an amazing job planning this event for all of us. All we had to do was show up. Though I’d been both institutions many times before—taking Jared in for treatments, visiting him in the hospital, giving the Branfmans a break from 24/7 care giving—I hadn’t been in the buildings since 2005. So, this was going to be a tough emotional day but an important one.
Our visit began with a sit-down with Dr. Myles A. Brown and Dr. Elena Stoffel. Dr. Brown heads a research lab at the DFCI focused on the impact of hormones on cancer incidence and prevention. Dr. Stoffel, a gastroenterologist, is part of a team that focuses on cancer prevention. She discussed the role of genetics and other factors (such as diet and exercise) on the incidence of cancer. Their comments were fascinating, and lots of good questions were asked and answered.
Next we had a tour led by Danielle Grossman from the DFCI Development Department. Her father Irwin is a PMC rider (and a friend of Team Kermit). After a visit to the Red Sox display and the Hall of Badges (donated by members of the Massachusetts Chiefs of Police Association, long-time Jimmy Fund supporters), we visited Kraft Family Blood Donor Center and learn about donating platelets, an important aspect of Dana-Farber’s work. We learned that you can donate up to 26 times a year (every two weeks), and saw the names of many people who do. One donor is on target to make 1,000 donations!
Our next stop was the PMC Bridge to Progress, which recognizes the importance of the PMC in supporting the work of the Dana-Farber. This was the first visit to the bridge for many of my teammates. It was very moving to see how moved they were to see the great memorabilia there from the history of the PMC. The bridge signifies the central role that the PMC plays in tying together all of the work of the DFCI. Angus took this picture of us.
Next we had a chance to meet with Dr. Mark Kieran, Medical Director of Pediatric Neuro-Oncology, and administrator of the Jared Branfman Sunflowers for Life Fund that we all raise money toward. Team Kermit captain Steven Branfman introduced Dr. Kieran, and he provided us with a fascinating update on the important progress being made in understanding pediatric brain and spinal cord cancers.
The last stop on our formal tour was the Jimmy Fund Clinic, a truly incredible place, where we learned about all that is done to care for children with cancer, and to make their lives as full and as normal as possible. The tour was provided by another PMC rider, (a member of team Reindeer, which raises money for the holiday party for Jimmy Fund patients).
After the tour was completed, a number of us went out in front of the new (soon-to-be opened) building at Dana-Farber, for which the PMC served as an anchor donor. There they have a commemoration of the PMC route, in the form of sidewalk bricks recognizing each city and town on the PMC route. This was a nice way to close our visit.
In closing, if the snow ever stops this year, we’ll be back on our bikes getting ready for this year’s PMC on August 6-7 and fundraising for Jared’s fund to help rid the world of cancer.