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UMass Cancer Walk and Run supporters continue tradition of generosity

Gratitude, solidarity and hope were the themes of the day on Sunday, Sept. 13, at the 22nd annual—and first-ever virtual—UMass Cancer Walk and Run. And with good reason, as donors, fundraisers and sponsors maintained their steadfast support for cancer research and clinical trials at UMass Medical School.

“The pandemic changed nearly everything about this event—except the dedication of our supporters,” said Rich Carr, chair of the UMass Cancer Walk and Run’s volunteer steering committee and president of Carr Financial Group, one of the event’s presenting sponsors. “They didn’t let anything stop them from demonstrating their commitment to fighting cancer. They made donations, they led fundraising teams and they sponsored, just as they have every year, and we’re so very grateful for their efforts.”

A 35-minute program co-hosted by Carr and Nanette Duquette, director of community fundraising and lead organizer of the event, was livestreamed at 10 a.m., the traditional start time for the walk. Personal stories from cancer patients, survivors and their families were shared, as were messages of thanks from the Medical School and local leaders.

Special appearances were made by Jenny Johnson, co-host of NESN’s “Dining Playbook” and WBZ’s “Food for Thought” programs; Toneisha Harris, a finalist from season 18 of “The Voice”; and Ricky Duran, a Central Massachusetts native and finalist from season 17 of “The Voice.” Duran shared an exclusive look at a soon-to-be released video for his new, original single, “She Closed Her Eyes,” written in memory of his mother, who lost her battle with breast cancer in 2018. Harris shared her original song, “My Superhero,” for the online version of the survivor lap that traditionally kicks off the walk portion of the event.

Rounding out the programming were spotlights on two longstanding fundraising teams—Team Absolute and Team Tate Strong—who embraced the “Your place, your pace” theme by holding team walks in their respective neighborhoods.

Underscored throughout the event were messages about the importance of fundraising and how it affects both the work being conducted at UMMS and people with cancer and their families.

“Your support and partnership are as vital as ever, perhaps even more so in the current environment,” said Chancellor Michael F. Collins. “We must remain vigilant in our fight against cancer, and continue to invest in the lifesaving work of our frontline clinicians involved in cancer care, to fuel the pioneering research of our world-class faculty, and to bring hope and healing to the brave patients and their families who depend on our academic health sciences center to help them when they most are in need of our expertise.”

“Finding better treatments and a cure for cancer are vital, and the only way we’ll get there is through research and clinical trials,” said Carr. “Your gifts matter. You bring hope to those who need it most. And we are so grateful for you and your support.”

According to Duquette, fundraising totals were on track to exceed $400,000.

“We knew our most dedicated fundraisers and sponsors would continue their support, and encourage others to join them,” she said. “The engagement we saw leading up to our virtual event through our online fundraising platforms and social media was terrific.”

To help keep that momentum going, presenting sponsor Harr Auto Group provided a match incentive: for every dollar donated on Sept. 13 and 14, the company would donate $2, up to $10,000. This was the second challenge match by a presenting sponsor this year; Carr Financial Group offered a similar incentive in July, which raised nearly $20,000.

“Overall, it was a great event and an inspiring summer of fundraising and support for the work in cancer research and clinical trials being done at UMass Medical School,” said Duquette.

“I want to thank everyone for their donations and support of the UMass Cancer Walk and Run, particularly this year during such a stressful time,” said Jonathan Gerber, MD, the Eleanor Eustis Farrington Chair in Cancer Research, associate professor of medicine, chief of the Division of Hematology-Oncology in the Department of Medicine and medical director of the UMass Cancer Center. “It is such a huge source of support for us and our team and, most importantly, for the patients that we care for. Your donations are absolutely vital to the life-saving clinical trials that we’re able to offer here at the UMass Cancer Center.”

Donations to the 22nd annual UMass Cancer Walk and Run will be accepted through Dec. 31. Visit to learn more. Watch the opening program here: