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The Jimmy Fund is a charity based in Boston, Massachusetts, that supports cancer care and research at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. Founded in 1948 to raise funds for patient care and the fight against children’s cancer, the Jimmy Fund now supports the search for new cancer treatments and cures for both adults and children at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. Since its founding in 1948, the Jimmy Fund has raised more than $600 million.

Contents

History

The Jimmy Fund was launched 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.

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The boy who launched the Jimmy Fund

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 the boy'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 more than $200,000 was collected in one year to support Dr. Farber's research, and the Jimmy Fund was born.[1]

1998: Jimmy is found

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, the home of the Jimmy Fund. Despite clues over the years to Jimmy's fate and identity, everyone at Dana-Farber assumed that he had died, because cure rates for pediatric cancers were so low during the era in which he was treated. 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 Jimmy Fund events such as the Pan-Massachusetts Challenge, the Boston Marathon Jimmy Fund Walk, and numerous golf tournaments. 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.

Affiliation with Dana-Farber Cancer Institute

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 is a fundraising arm of Dana-Farber.

The Jimmy Fund Clinic

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.

Boston Red Sox Partnership

The relationship that the Red Sox and the Jimmy Fund share is the longest standing, most extensive, and significant team-charity relationship in all of professional sports.

The Red Sox formed a partnership with the Jimmy Fund on April 10, 1953, 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 with radio station WEEI and TV station NESN to hold Jimmy Fund Day at Fenway Park and an 48-hour radio-telethon.

Ted Williams

Ted Williams was the single most influential person 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 children (and later adults) 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.

It is estimated that Williams is personally responsible for raising millions of dollars in the fight against cancer and other related diseases.

Mike Andrews

Former Red Sox second baseman Mike Andrews — chairman of the Jimmy Fund for more than 25 years — says that working for the Jimmy Fund is the best thing he's 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 agreed to work as a part-time volunteer for former Red Sox announcer Ken Coleman, who had just been appointed executive director of the Jimmy Fund. After a month, Andrews dedicated himself to the charity full-time and was appointed chairman of the Jimmy Fund in 1979, a position he still holds today.

Community Partners

Several organizations have stood out in their support of the Jimmy Fund.

Boston Athletic Association

One of the oldest athletic clubs in the country, the Boston Athletic Association (B.A.A.) plays a primary role in the success of two fundraising events that benefit Dana-Farber Cancer Institute — the Boston Marathon Jimmy Fund Walk and the Dana-Farber Marathon Challenge.

Since 1989, the B.A.A. has provided volunteers and logistical support to the Walk, the only event other than the Boston Marathon that is sanctioned by the B.A.A. to use the official marathon name and 26.2-mile route. The B.A.A. has partnered with the Marathon Challenge since 1990, by providing official race entries to runners who raise money for the Institute.

Massachusetts Chiefs of Police

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.

Variety Children’s Charity of New England

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 Program, started in 1949, 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.

Fundraising Events

The Jimmy Fund is comprised of dozens of Special Events organized by the charity as well as hundreds of smaller events organized by outside supporters who wish to raise money in honor or memory of loved ones, many of whom are treated at Dana-Farber. The following events are some of the best known.

Boston Marathon Jimmy Fund Walk

Started in 1989, the Boston Marathon Jimmy Fund Walk gives participants the opportunity to follow the course of the 26.2-mile 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 three route options designed for everyone from the marathon enthusiast to the youngest walker.

Jimmy Fund Golf

Founded in 1983, Jimmy Fund Golf is the largest organized charity golf program in the U.S. Now entering its 25th year, the program has grown to 150 tournaments annually. In 2006, tournaments collectively raised more than $6 million for the Jimmy Fund. Jimmy Fund Golf has raised more than $53 million since 1983.

Jimmy Fund Scooper Bowl

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 10 of the industry's largest ice cream companies, the Scooper Bowl has raised nearly $2 million for the Jimmy Fund.

Jimmy Fund/Variety Children’s Charity Theater Program

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 donate to the Jimmy Fund followed by volunteers going around the theater with canisters collecting from the audience money for cancer research and patient care.

John Hancock Fantasy Day to Benefit the Jimmy Fund

For die hard baseball fans who would love to play ball at Fenway Park, John Hancock Fantasy Day is their chance to step up to the plate to support the Jimmy Fund. Batters get 15 chances to hit a ball over Fenway's famed left field wall (the "Green Monster"), while fielders get to test their skills at snagging fly balls or making double plays for an hour on the manicured field.

Pan-Massachusetts Challenge

The Pan-Massachusetts 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 nearly 50 percent of the Jimmy Fund's annual revenue and is its single largest 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 eight routes of varying mileage designed to cater to all levels of cycling strength and time availability.

Walk and Rock

The Walk and Rock for the Jimmy Fund, organized by the students of Worcester Academy, features a 2- and 5-mile walk-a-thon down Worcester's cultural Shrewsbury Street, along with a Battle of the Bands between groups nominated by prominent Central Massachusetts high schools. Food, a Chinese auction, and games for the whole family are also highlights of the day. The fundraiser directs its proceeds towards Adolescent and Young Adult (AYA) cancer programs at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

WEEI/NESN Jimmy Fund Radio-Telethon

The WEEI/NESN Jimmy Fund Radio-Telethon is an annual 2 day radio-telethon, usually held in mid- to late-August, featuring celebrity guests and callers as well as personal stories of the patients, doctors and researchers supported by the Jimmy Fund. Since 2002, this event has raised around $12 million for the Jimmy Fund, including several donations from George Steinbrenner, owner of the New York Yankees.

Burger King

Since 2000, during August and September Burger King has sold a series of scratch tickets with all proceeds going to the Jimmy fund. Each "Chance for Kids" card will win a prize donated by Burger King, Blockbuster Video and other companies valued at a dollar or more. Originally ran only in the eastern Massachusetts region, the event is now held in all six New England states, New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. As of the beginning of the 2008 event in July, the event has raised over $6.5 million since its inception.

Power Tower Stair Climb

(Discontinued) Started in the late 90's, it allowed kids and parents to walk to the top of one of Boston's tallest skyscrapers. A dinner party along with reward ceremonies were held at the top of the building. Often associated with Red Sox players, particularly John Valentine. All donations went to the Jimmy Fund.

References

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