THE WALK TO CURE CANCER
Don Hodes (above) has walked with thousands since 1999, making the Walk to Cure Cancer Central Massachusetts' largest single-day fundraiser.
Worcester resident Don Hodes, 72, considers himself an active member of the community and a philanthropist, quietly supporting a number of local institutions. For decades he has been involved in the Hudson Hoagland Society, fascinated by the scientific work of the Worcester Foundation for Biomedical Research and UMass Medical School. Ten years ago, his interest in research took on a new focus, when he was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a cancer of the plasma cells, and given a grim prognosis. Fortunately, his treatment at UMass Memorial Medical Center, though arduous, has worked well, and he recognized the role research has played in his care and his current good health. “There were very few treatment options then,” he recalled, “but now there are many more, and others are being developed all the time because of huge advances in research.”
Shortly after his diagnosis, Hodes participated in the Walk to Cure Cancer, then a new event to raise money for cancer research at the Medical School. In September 1999, the inaugural Walk began in a parking lot across the campus from the construction site that was soon to yield the Aaron Lazare Medical Research Building (LRB). Three thousand walkers strode around Lake Quinsigamond then, and over the years of the walk, funded the fit-out of laboratory space in the gleaming new 360,000-square-foot research facility and pledged their support to the growth of the UMass Memorial Cancer Center and the work of its researchers. The Cancer Center occupies an entire floor in the LRB and includes faculty working in the areas of cancer genetics, growth regulation of cancer cells, cancer epidemiology and new approaches to treatment of cancer, including gene therapy.
Almost a decade later, Hodes is still walking, joined by 14,000 other walkers—including 450 teams—who gathered at the 2008 event from across the city and state to make a stand against cancer. Each person and team has a reason for walking: to honor a loved one lost to cancer; to support someone undergoing treatment; to celebrate a success story; to help raise awareness; to have a hand in finding a cure. Together they have raised more than $6 million to fund cancer research at UMMS and have steadfastly maintained the momentum that has fueled the Walk’s growth, ensuring that subsequent years will bring us even closer to a cure.
Looking beyond the Walk’s fund-raising successes, Hodes sees it as an important community event for the emotional impact it has on participants and especially patients. Being surrounded by 14,000 walkers, he said, “makes you realize you are not alone, you are not forgotten.” Hodes’s cancer is incurable but treatable and requires close monitoring and constant vigilance, something that he has learned to take in stride. He is particularly pleased to see so many young faces at the Walk: school-aged children involved in teams, college students and young families. “When I was young, nobody talked about cancer. I think it’s important for young people to be aware of cancer. They do get involved, for themselves and their friends and family. They help support the work being done at the Medical School, for now and the future.”
The Massachusetts AFL-CIO Walk to Cure Cancer
This information appears in the UMMS 2008 Annual Report. PDF available.