LONGMEADOW, MA – Kelly Packard and her father Bill are each other’s biggest supporters. Bill, a Massachusetts Avenue resident and Kelly, a Longmeadow native who last lived in town in 2013, will each complete the 26.2-mile Boston Marathon course to support the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute – but at very different paces and at different times of the year. And they’ll do so with one cheering on the other.
Bill will walk his sixth consecutive Boston Marathon Jimmy Fund Walk in September. Six years ago after suffering a heart attack, that’s something he didn’t think was possible.
“After my heart attack, I never really did anything challenging,” Bill said. “Kelly had told me about this walk, and I figured it would be a challenge for myself to do it.”
There are four routes to choose from in the Jimmy Fund Walk, with the Marathon route being the longest at 26.2 miles. The other routes are 3.1 miles, 6.2 miles, and 13.1 miles, but Bill said if he was going to participate, he wanted to take on the toughest course.
“I figured if I’m gonna do it, I’m gonna do the full marathon,” Bill said. “The whole concept of the event just fascinated me, and it gave me a charity I could support so the organization could get money to help people fight this battle against cancer.”
Kelly, who ran her first Boston Marathon in 2017, said that completing the 26.2-mile course has never been about her or her father’s times, but about supporting patient care and research at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and raising awareness about all the good they do.
“I was never a runner, and my dad was never someone who particularly enjoyed going for walks in the dead of summer, but both of us fell in love with our respective events and for the cause itself,” Kelly said. “I personally cannot imagine walking a marathon, but it’s a reality I’m coming to terms with as an injury means I may have no other choice come April 15 but to sit at home on my couch or walk at the back of the pack with several teammates who are also planning to walk for various reasons. If I have to crawl to the finish, I will.”
Kelly said that when she’s running the course and things get tough, she tries to remember why she’s doing the event, and it helps her push through.
This year, Kelly will be running in honor of Hannah, a 3-year-old patient at Dana-Farber who is being treated for leukemia.
“She is my official Patient Partner, and I have so enjoyed getting to know her and her family, spending time with them, and remembering the reason for signing up for this crazy adventure and all the training that goes into it – to fight cancer,” Kelly wrote on her fundraising page. “Hannah is a feisty fireball, a perfect complement to my sassy spitfire mentality and my inspiration for running on April 15 regardless of what injuries I’m dealing with or what weather New England brings us.”
That motivation, coupled with her father’s support, is why Kelly calls participating in the Marathon “life changing.”
“I’m so grateful for his support,” Kelly said. “We’re each other’s biggest cheerleaders on the sidelines. I walk the last few miles with my dad during his event, and if he was allowed, I bet he’d run the last 0.2 miles with me during mine too.”
Bill also said the support he receives from his daughter is special as well.
“Kelly always runs up ahead of me so she can get a picture and meet me at the finish line,” Bill said. “When it gets tiring and gets hard, it’s nice to know she’s there.”
To help Kelly reach her fundraising goal, go to: danafarber.jimmyfund.org/goto/KellyDFMC
– Article by Jeff Hanouille/Longmeadow News