BOSTON (CBS) – It’s a team that’s grown from 10 to 110, and raised millions of dollars to help children with cancer. And when the starting gun goes off for this year’s Boston Marathon, the Massachusetts General Hospital Marathon team will hit the road, with a purpose. And it all started with just one man.
“We wanted to do something that would raise a lot of money for the childhood cancer program, that would be very meaningful for our patients and their families, and also meaningful for the runners,” says Dr. Howard Weinstein, the unit chief of the Pediatric Hematology/Oncology center at the Mass. General Hospital for Children. Dr. Weinstein started the team in 1998. Sixteen marathons later, he’s still on the course and still treating kids with cancer. “It’s been one of the most meaningful experiences of my career,” he says. From a small start, the team is now, huge. “The program has grown dramatically, beyond my wildest expectations,” says Dr. Weinstein. The team has raised nearly $8-million for the MGH cancer program. “We support research initiatives, we support quality of life programs, art therapy, music therapy for our patients,” he says.
The need becomes very real for the runners when they’re paired with a patient-partner. Fifteen year old Carson Spahr just completed chemo and radiation therapies to treat his cancer. Carson is Dr. Weinstein’s patient partner. “It’s a great honor. It means a lot to me,” says Carson. “It’s going to be a lot of fun to run the last six miles with him. Hopefully I can keep up with him since he’s run fifteen so far,” he adds. Beyond the runners hundreds of patients, their families and supporters also turn out for the race and to cheer the team on. “It’s really a very nice feeling to bring all these people together for a great cause,” says Dr. Weinstein.
The cheering section for the MGH team assembles at mile 20, at the base of Heartbreak Hill, to give the runners that extra boost to the finish line.