WALKING for the seventh year, Team Toss Out Cancer features seven members from town who will participate in this year’s virtual Jimmy Fund “Walk Your Way” fundraiser on local streets Sunday rather than the Boston Marathon route due to Covid-19. From left: Sheri Burgholzer, supporter Katrina Collins and her son Tyler, who is a team member, Kathy McGreal, Penny Esposito, Christine O’Toole, “Walk Hero” Joyce DiGiantommaso and Colleen Kelleher. (Courtesy Photo)

By ALLIE HASTINGS

NORTH READING Seven North Reading residents from team “Toss Out Cancer” will choose to walk their own route on Sunday, October 3 in support of the annual Boston Marathon Jimmy Fund: Walk Your Way.

North Reading resident and Walk Hero Joyce DiGiantommaso will be leading the way and guiding her team as they participate in this virtual programming, which aims to unite community members in the fight against all cancers.

DiGiantommaso is a breast cancer survivor who was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 2008 and later diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer in 2014. She originally participated in the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Walk in Boston with friends and family to raise money for cancer research but decided to switch gears in 2014 to walk for the Boston Marathon Jimmy Fund Walk, which is how her team Toss Out Cancer was launched.

The Jimmy Fund Walk functions to support all forms of adult and pediatric care and cancer research at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute Boston’s cutting-edge cancer treatment and research establishment and a leader in cancer research in the nation.

The Walk Your Way event in which DiGiantommaso’s team is participating has raised more than $150 million for the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in its 30-plus year history.

Virtual walk throughout town

When the Jimmy Fund Walk became virtual last year due to the pandemic, DiGiantommaso’s team walked the streets of North Reading in lieu of the traditional Boston Marathon route. Half of her team walked 13 miles, while the other half completed the entire 26-mile journey.

“We walked the streets of North Reading starting at my house, winding through neighborhoods, passing the North Reading Food Pantry, walking up and around the Batchelder School, around the North Reading High School track and back to our starting point,” DiGiantommaso recalled.

Even though the 13-milers and 26-milers endured a temporary separation, all of last year’s walkers came together again at team member Tyler Collins’s home, where his parents, Katrina and Scott Collins, had recreated a finish line.

“They created this huge balloon arch with all the Jimmy Fund colors just like the one we would have crossed in Boston, and it was truly amazing!” DiGiantommaso said.

This year marks Toss Out Cancer’s seventh year of participation in the Jimmy Fund Walk, and seven North Reading residents, including DiGiantommaso, are set to represent the team this Sunday. In town, DiGiantommaso will be joined by her sister, Christine O’Toole, as well as Kathy McGreal, Penny Esposito, Sheri Burgholzer, Colleen Kelleher, and Tyler Collins.

Four individuals from other towns will be representing team Toss Out Cancer as well, she said.

According to the team’s fundraising page, each member of Toss Out Cancer walks for a personal reason whether it’s in memory of a loved one or in honor of someone currently battling the disease.

First year as a designated “Walk Hero”

This year’s event is also a special one for DiGiantommaso as she was asked to be part of the Hero Program and help inspire her teammates to raise critical funds for cancer research and patient care at Dana-Farber.

In the past, when the Jimmy Fund Walk took place in Boston, Walk Heroes were acknowledged at each mile marker along the marathon route. Now that the event is continuing in a virtual fashion, there was a “Virtual Hero Unveil” during the Jimmy Fund September Walk Town Hall on Sept. 22, and a Jimmy Fund Celebration Broadcast on Sept. 26 when listeners heard from patients, doctors, and fellow walkers about their efforts to walk together as a community in the continuing fight against all forms of the disease.

When asked how it felt to receive this Walk Hero acknowledgment, DiGiantommaso responded with humility and gratitude.

“I don’t think that I’m a hero but I’m honored to be chosen. Our team is amazing and they have always put so much effort into fundraising, and they are my heroes,” she reflected.

Hope to raise $17,000

Amazingly, team Toss Out Cancer has already surpassed their original goal of raising $15,000 for the Jimmy Fund Walk and recently bumped their goal up to $17,000. Donations are always encouraged and appreciated. Those who are able and willing to make a contribution to the team can visit the Toss Out Cancer fundraising page at http://danafarber.jimmyfund.org/goto/tossoutcancer.

The Boston Athletic Association has supported the Jimmy Fund Walk since 1989, and Hyundai has been the presenting sponsor since 2002. To register to walk (#JimmyFundWalk) or to support a walker, visit www.JimmyFundWalk.org or call 1-866-531-9255. All Jimmy Fund Walk participants are invited to utilize the Charity Miles App to help with both training and fundraising as well as engage with Dana-Farber patient stories and podcasts.