Locals Participate In Jimmy Fund Walk To Raise Funds, Fight Cancer

By: Brad Joyal

Topics: Chatham , Harwich

Chatham resident Michelle Welch, right, and her daughter Cathryn Williams are set to take part in another Jimmy Fund Walk on Oct. 2. COURTESY PHOTO

Several Lower Cape Cod residents will be among the thousands of walkers who will approach the historic Boston Marathon start line in Hopkinton on Oct. 2 to take part in the Jimmy Fund Walk.

Since its inception in 1989, the Jimmy Fund Walk has raised more than $150 million for the Dana Farber Cancer Institute, with the funds being used to support all forms of adult and pediatric patient care and cancer research.

After the event was held virtually the past two years due to COVID-19, it will be making its in-person return this year along the marathon course.

“It’s something that if you haven’t done in the past, you should do it,” said Jennifer Watson, a Harwich resident preparing to take part in her 13th Jimmy Fund Walk with her husband, Jonathan.

“It’s an amazing day because along the route you have all these college students who have volunteered their time to cheer you on. Plus, there’s all of these families of those who have lost family members to cancer who are cheering on team members along the whole route,” she said.

Like many of the people who choose to participate, the Watson family was motivated to take part in the event after people they are close with were diagnosed with cancer, including Emily Coughlin, a Chatham teenager and Monomoy senior who in 2009 was diagnosed with Stage IV high-risk neuroblastoma — a rare form of pediatric cancer — when she was 3 years old.

“We started because I was friends with [Emily’s mother] Amy and she was putting a team together,” Watson said. “At the same time, my husband’s father had been diagnosed with cancer and we were just kind of looking for some way to give back, so we joined Team EmmBelle, which is for the Coughlins.”

In the years since, both Jennifer and Jonathan Watson have lost each of their fathers to cancer, so the motivation to help raise funds has grown even stronger.

“I think any cancer research is important,” Jennifer Watson said. “Especially the type of cancer Emily has — neuroblastoma — it only affects children, so we really want to make an impact. There just seems to be too many kids on Cape Cod that are afflicted with cancer and any research that can be done is going to help.”

Chatham resident Michelle Welch, 62, is set to walk with her 35-year-old daughter Cathryn. The duo have been participating in the walk for about a decade, including the past two in which they took part virtually near Cathryn’s home in Central Mass.

“My daughter who I walk with lives in Grafton, so last year we walked Grafton, Westborough, Millbury, Taunton, everywhere we needed to walk to get the 26.2 miles,” Welch said. “The year before we actually walked in Chatham, which was lovely.”

Welch said she felt a desire to raise funds for Dana Farber after it helped treat Cathryn when she was diagnosed with a brain tumor at age 10.

“We had a really wonderful experience through Children’s and Dana Farber and then we also have a family friend who is the same age as Cathryn but she was actually diagnosed much younger,” Welch said. “She also was treated extensively through the Boston Children’s Hospital and the Jimmy Fund, so it’s a very important organization and we’re happy to give back.”

Welch said she’s looking forward to returning to the Boston Marathon route, which makes the phenomenal event seem even more special.

“We’re excited to go back to the actual Boston Marathon route because the Jimmy Fund has all these volunteers along the way cheering you on and it’s a very uplifting event,” she said. “They also have markers along the way telling the stories of Jimmy Fund patients. Some of them are children, some of them are older, but you can learn about what your fundraising is doing as you’re walking.”

Although many participants will take part in the event in a virtual setting yet again this year, Watson said she’d encourage people to attend in person if they’re able to.

“If you’re able to go in person, it can change your outlook in a really positive way,” she said.

Those interested in donating to either Michelle Welch or her daughter Cathryn Williams’ fundraising efforts can do so at bit.ly/3eZkrgJ and bit.ly/3ByMuLo. Jennifer and Jonathan Watson’s fundraising pages can be accessed at bit.ly/3SbAvKQ and bit.ly/3RX5MkI.

Email Brad Joyal at brad@capecodchronicle.com. Twitter: @BradJoyal