Published in the September 20, 2016 edition.
By MAUREEN DOHERTY
EVERETT —The annual Homecoming Hustle 5K in memory of Friends Fighting Breast Cancer (FFBC) co-founder Janet Connolly O’Neill is this Saturday morning, Sept. 24.
There’s still time for runners and walkers, both kids and adults, to participate in this fun run/walk on a relatively flat road course that starts and ends at the Everett Recreation Center, 47 Elm St., Everett (across from Glendale Park and the high school).
Race-day registration opens at 8 a.m. and the race begins at 9 a.m. The entrance fee is a $20 donation to FFBC, a nonprofit, all volunteer organization dedicated to funding grassroots breast cancer research at Mass. General Hospital’s Cancer Center.
The Homecoming Hustle kicks off a day-long celebration that includes a football game between Div. 1 powers Everett and St. John’s Prep of Danvers at 2:30 p.m. and the homecoming parade at 5 p.m.
Connolly O’Neill, an Everett native, devoted her professional career to educating the children of Everett. She was the assistant principal of the Webster School at the time of her death in 2002 at age 51. She and her husband Mike raised their two children, Michael and Katie, in North Reading.
After her breast cancer diagnosis at age 38, she served a term on the North Reading School Committee. When her disease metastasized, she co-founded FFBC in 1996 with friends and family, many of whom call Wakefield home, including her sister, Joanne Connolly Leach, and her friend, Jane Davenport.
During her 13-year battle, she inspired FFBC members and supporters to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for research through events such as the Homecoming Hustle, gala dinner dances, raffles, silent auctions and golf tournaments.
When the Homecoming Hustle began over 16 years ago, Janet was there at podium on the starting line giving one of her witty and inspirational speeches to the participants, many of whom were her current and former students and colleagues. She was always humbled by the commitment of others to her cause.
In December 2014, FFBC eclipsed an amazing milestone of $1 million in total giving to support landmark research undertaken at MGH while remaining a 100 percent volunteer-supported nonprofit.
Janet’s vision laid the groundwork through FFBC that she hoped would lead to a cure of breast cancer in her daughter’s lifetime. Twenty years later, her daughter, Katie O’Neill Britton, is a wife and mother of two who carries on her mother’s mission as chairperson of FFBC, inspiring members to reach for that million dollar milestone and beyond.