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The Jimmy Fund was launched in 1948 with the help of the Variety Club of New England (now the Variety Children's Charity of New England). The club organized a radio broadcast from the bedside of a young cancer patient dubbed Jimmy as he was visited by members of the Boston Braves baseball team. Contributions poured in to buy Jimmy a television set so he could watch the Braves play.
From his first radio broadcast that launched the Jimmy Fund in the late 1940s to his countless appearances at Jimmy Fund events, Einar Gustafson, the Jimmy Fund's original "Jimmy," was an inspiration to hundreds of thousands of people throughout New England.
Jimmy's story began in 1948, when Gustafson was a 12-year-old patient of Dr. Sidney Farber, founder of the Children's Cancer Research Foundation (eventually renamed Dana-Farber Cancer Institute) and a pioneer of modern chemotherapy.
Dubbed "Jimmy" to protect his privacy, Gustafson longed for a television set so he could watch his favorite baseball team — the Boston Braves. He was selected to speak on Ralph Edwards' national radio program, "Truth or Consequences," on May 22, 1948, which was broadcast from Gustafson's hospital room. During the broadcast, Edwards spoke to the young cancer patient from his Hollywood studio as Braves players crowded into Jimmy's hospital room in Boston. The show ended with a plea for listeners to send donations so Jimmy could get his TV set. Not only did he get his wish, but also more than $200,000 was collected in one year to support Dr. Farber's research. Thus began the Jimmy Fund.
Following his brush with celebrity and the remission of his cancer, Gustafson returned to his family's farm in northern Maine and later lived for many years in Massachusetts. Despite clues over the years to Jimmy's fate, Dana-Farber's employees assumed that he had died, due to the low cure rates for pediatric cancers in 1948. While never intentionally concealing his role as "Jimmy," Gustafson remained anonymous until 1998, the 50th anniversary of the original radio broadcast.
After his "welcome back" to Dana-Farber, Gustafson's story was featured in People Magazine and Sports Illustrated, and in newspapers nationwide. In 1999, his home state of Maine held a Recognition Day for him, and he was named honorary chairman of the Jimmy Fund.
Gustafson's many efforts on behalf of the Jimmy Fund since his re-emergence included recording public service announcements for radio and television, visiting patients at Dana-Farber, and appearing at various Jimmy Fund events. He also drove a trailer truck with the charity's logo and slogan— "Because it takes more than courage to beat cancer"— emblazoned on it.
Gustafson died of a stroke at age 65 on January 22, 2001.
Ranked as the top cancer hospital in New England, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute is recognized by the National Cancer Institute as one of the world’s leaders in cancer treatment and research. The Jimmy Fund raises money solely for Dana-Farber.
The Jimmy Fund Clinic is one of the world's premier centers for pediatric cancer research and treatment. Starting in the 1940s, when Institute founder Sidney Farber, M.D., used drug therapy to achieve the first-ever remissions of childhood acute lymphoblastic leukemia, Dana-Farber researchers have made strides against virtually every type of cancer that strikes children, from solid tumors that involve individual organs to those that affect blood or lymph.
The clinic was designed to appeal to children, with Disney paintings on the walls and playrooms.
The Red Sox and the Jimmy Fund share one of the longest sports partnerships in history.
The Red Sox formed a partnership with the Jimmy Fund on April 10, 1953, after the Braves left Boston for Milwaukee, and has continued to support the organization since. The anniversary of the partnership generally falls just before the Red Sox Home Opener. It is celebrated with the display of the Boston Red Sox/Jimmy Fund logo on the "Green Monster" in Fenway Park. In addition, the Red Sox team along with radio station WEEI-FM and TV station NESN hold a 36-hour radio-telethon at Fenway Park in August, which is Jimmy Fund month at the park.
Ted Williams was integral in helping to raise funds for the Children's Cancer Research Foundation (now Dana-Farber Cancer Institute). He was an important aid to founder Dr. Sidney Farber, spreading word of Farber's research to help save lives from the scourge of cancer.
Ted Williams was the Red Sox' biggest star when the Jimmy Fund was founded in 1948. He had a special love for children and was always willing to visit them in the hospital with no fanfare. He also continuously took part in Jimmy Fund fundraising efforts on behalf of the Red Sox organization, going to Little League games, American Legion banquets, temples and churches, movie houses, department stores for autograph sessions, even cookouts on Boston Common. Williams also announced that all checks for the Jimmy Fund sent to Fenway Park would be endorsed with his autograph for the donors.
It is estimated that Williams is personally responsible for raising millions of dollars in the fight against cancer and other related diseases.
Former Red Sox second baseman Mike Andrews — who was chairman of the Jimmy Fund for 30 years — says that working for the Jimmy Fund was the best thing he'd ever done in his life.
Andrews' commitment began during his rookie season with the Sox in 1967 when he spent a few minutes with a patient before a game at the request of Bill Koster, then chairman of the Jimmy Fund for nearly 30 years. After retiring from baseball in 1973, Andrews worked with former Red Sox announcer Ken Coleman, who had just been appointed executive director of the Jimmy Fund. Andrews dedicated himself to the charity full-time and was appointed chairman of the Jimmy Fund in 1979, a position he held until 2010.
Boston Red Sox President/CEO Emeritus, Larry Lucchino, was named Chairman of the Jimmy Fund in 2016. Lucchino has long been a supporter, leader, Trustee, and patient of Dana-Farber, which twice helped save his life from cancer over the last 30 years.
"The opportunity to participate in the leadership of the Jimmy Fund is an honor and a duty," said Lucchino in 2015. "I want to deepen my connection with this remarkable organization which is on the front line in the battle against cancer, and I am eager to expand the important work of raising awareness, more funds, and support to help us treat, research, and conquer this miserable disease."
During his time with the Boston Red Sox, Lucchino has personally supported many Jimmy Fund fundraising events including the Pan-Mass Challenge, Boston Marathon® Jimmy Fund Walk, Jimmy Fund Scooper Bowl®, WEEI/NESN Jimmy Fund Radio-Telethon, Boston Red Sox/Jimmy Fund License Plates, and more.
Several organizations have stood out in their support of the Jimmy Fund.
The Pan-Mass Challenge (PMC) is the nation's original fundraising bike-a-thon and today raises more money than any other athletic fundraising event in the country. The PMC generates roughly 50% of the Jimmy Fund's annual revenue and is its largest single contributor.
The PMC is a fully supported bike-a-thon, which provides food and waterstops, mechanical and medical assistance, luggage transportation, and lodging through 43 towns across Massachusetts. Cyclists choose from 12 routes of varying mileage designed to cater to all levels of cycling strength and time availability.
Among the oldest athletic clubs in the country, the Boston Athletic Association (B.A.A.) plays a primary role in the success of four fundraising events that benefit Dana-Farber Cancer Institute — the Boston Marathon® Jimmy Fund Walk, Dana-Farber Marathon Challenge, the B.A.A. Half Marathon®, and the B.A.A. 5K®.
Since 1989, the B.A.A. has provided volunteers and logistical support to the Walk, the only event other than the Boston Marathon itself that is sanctioned by the B.A.A. to use the official marathon name and 42.195-kilometre (26.219 mi) route. The B.A.A. has partnered with the Dana-Farber Marathon Challenge since 1990, by providing official race entries to runners who raise money for Dana-Farber.
The Massachusetts Chiefs of Police Association adopted the Jimmy Fund as their official charity in 1953. Even before that date, the chiefs visited young patients at Dana-Farber and began raising money to support its mission by holding softball games, picnics, canister collections, and other special programs that still continue today.
A non-profit charity associated with the entertainment industry, the New England chapter of the Variety Club (now called the Variety Children's Charity of New England) was instrumental in the creation of the Jimmy Fund.
Variety Club members became involved after hearing Dana-Farber founder Dr. Sidney Farber, MD, speak about his research into children's cancer in 1947. The club raised $45,000 in its first fundraising drive to support Farber's research at the Children's Cancer Research Foundation.
Later that year, it was a Variety Club barker who convinced Ralph Edwards of the "Truth or Consequences" radio show to hold a radio broadcast from the bedside of a 12-year-old boy dubbed "Jimmy" - a campaign that raised $200,000 to launch the Jimmy Fund.
The Jimmy Fund/Variety Children's Charity Theatre Collections were started in 1949 and added to that amount, and within four years, Farber was able to cease working in the basement of Children's Hospital and move to roomier quarters in the new four-story Jimmy Fund Building.
Thanks to the efforts of the organization, Hollywood stars such as John Wayne, Dean Martin, Jerry Lewis, Joan Crawford, and Frank Sinatra have given their time, talents, and influence to solicit contributions for the charity. In 1953, Deborah Kerr recorded an on-screen appeal which aired in theaters following showings of "From Here to Eternity". The Variety Club now sponsors an annual golf tournament to benefit the Jimmy Fund, and its theater collections program.
The Jimmy Fund consists of more than 700 events organized either by the charity or by volunteer supporters who wish to raise money in honor or memory of loves ones, many of whom have been treated at Dana-Farber. The following events are some of the best known.
Started in 1989, the Boston Marathon® Jimmy Fund Walk gives participants the opportunity to follow the course of the 42.195-kilometre (26.219 mi) Boston Marathon® in honor or memory of friends, family, co-workers, and patients facing all forms of cancer. It is the only event other than the Boston Marathon itself that is sanctioned by the Boston Athletic Association to use the historic route. Walkers choose from one of four route options designed for all levels of fitness. It raises more money than any other single-day walk in the country.
The Jimmy Fund Golf program is the oldest and largest organized charity golf program in the country. Now in its 35th year, Jimmy Fund Golf raises funds to support adult and pediatric cancer care and research at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. The Jimmy Fund Golf Program has more than 160 golf fundraisers that include 18-hole golf tournaments, mini golf events and day-long golf marathons.
The WEEI/NESN Jimmy Fund Radio-Telethon is an annual 2 day radio-telethon, usually held in August, featuring celebrity guests and callers as well as personal stories of the patients, doctors and researchers supported by the Jimmy Fund.
Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and the Jimmy Fund is the Presenting Sponsor and Exclusive Charity Partner of the B.A.A. Half Marathon. This 13.1-mile, rolling course is an out-and-back route along Boston's renowned Emerald Necklace park system. The race begins and ends at White Stadium in Franklin Park, one of the oldest public parks in the country.
Rally for the Jimmy Fund offers workplaces and schools the opportunity to celebrate Fenway Park’s Opening Day by wearing Red Sox gear to work or school.
The Jimmy Fund Scooper Bowl® is the nation's largest all-you-can-eat ice cream festival. Founded in 1983, this annual three-day event dishes out 10 tons of summer's finest to nearly 30,000 ice cream lovers from across the nation. Made possible by the generous contributions of the industry's largest ice cream companies.
Every summer since the theater program started in 1949, participating movie theaters show a short film of the work being done at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston. Then, an announcement is made asking if anyone would like to make a gift to the Jimmy Fund followed by volunteers going around the theater with canisters collecting from the audience money for cancer research and patient care.
The Boston Red Sox/Jimmy Fund License Plate is a longtime partnership with the Red Sox Foundation. The branded license plate is available through the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles.
Jimmy Fund Little League provides more than 5,000 little league baseball and softball players throughout New England the chance to continue playing after their regular season ends by fundraising and participating in local tournaments. Since 1987, off the field these players have taken to their communities to raise vital funds for the Jimmy Fund, while learning the importance of philanthropy and volunteerism.
John Hancock Fenway Fantasy Day offers a chance for baseball fans to step up to Fenway Park's plate to support the Jimmy Fund. Batters get the chance to hit a ball over Fenway's left field wall (the "Green Monster"), while fielders get to test their skills at snagging fly balls or making double plays on the field.
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