The year 2020 marked a decade of the Boston Marathon® Jimmy Fund Walk presented by Hyundai for team Seshu Strong, whose members continue to find new and inventive ways to honor the legacy of Seshu Kandukuri.
In many ways, Seshu Strong is more than a team, it’s a movement. Bringing together so many from all around New England to fundraise in Seshu’s memory, the team has turned their family’s loss into a message of hope for families going through similar challenges.
In 2010, just after completing his sophomore year at Grafton High School, 17-year-old Seshu was diagnosed with cancer and began treatment at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute’s Jimmy Fund Clinic. Soon after, Seshu’s classmates hosted STRIDES FOR SESHU, a walk at the high school to show support for their friend. Students, parents, teachers, and other community members all came together as a show of strength and love for Seshu.
The next year, inspired by STRIDES FOR SESHU, Seshu’s father, Rao, decided to register for the Jimmy Fund Walk. After hearing of his dad’s plan, Seshu signed up to join his father, and the two completed the full 26.2-mile route together, all while Seshu was undergoing treatment at Dana-Farber. In addition to Seshu and Rao, more than 50 of their friends, family, and community members joined team Seshu Strong that first year.
Unfortunately, Seshu’s health continued to decline, and he sadly passed away on March 7, 2012. Rao came across some reflections Seshu had written while going through his treatment, which included a quote Seshu found particularly inspirational during his most challenging times:
“We grow stronger each day we struggle and wiser every minute we fight the misfortunes in our lives. Soon, we realize that our deepest fears are conquered only with perseverance and determination.”
As it did for Seshu, this quote motivated Rao and his wife, Padma, through their loss. They carried on Seshu’s legacy in many ways, including the continued efforts of the Seshu Strong team in the annual Jimmy Fund Walk.
“I decided to step up and keep doing what I can for cancer awareness and to support the Jimmy Fund and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute,” said Rao. “Seshu always felt like the Jimmy Fund Clinic was his home and all those other kids battling cancer were his brothers and sisters.” Seshu Strong has become a force in the Jimmy Fund Walk every year of the past decade. In 2015, Rao expanded the team’s efforts by involving local high school students as co-captains. The teens help lead the team, including engaging other young people in the effort.
The move in 2020 to a virtual event meant team Seshu Strong needed to pivot their annual Walk plans. Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the Jimmy Fund Walk: Your Way encouraged participants to walk safely in their local communities, rather than the large-scale event along the historic Boston Marathon® route. The change of courses did nothing to deter Seshu Strong from their efforts, and, in fact, inspired them to expand their reach beyond the location, date, and time limitations of the normal in-person Walk.
On Sunday, October 4, over 125 team members walked safely in five different locations in Massachusetts and New Hampshire, as well as in Atlanta, Georgia.
The following weekend, on Sunday, October 11, a group of 25 walkers met at the New England Shirdi Sai Baba Temple (NESSP) in Groton, Mass., walking around the temple’s campus.
Finally, the Walk’s Your Way edition inspired Seshu Strong to do something totally new: They decided to take hope as high as they could by summitting Massachusetts and New Hampshire mountains with the Jimmy Fund Walk banner. Their hikes included Mt. Pierce, Mt. Eisenhower, Mt. Monroe, and Mt. Washington.
For Rao, the Walk keeps Seshu’s legacy alive, and no matter where they walk, their team is together against cancer.
“At times, my heart becomes weak knowing that I can’t be with my son physically,” Rao said. “But when I see around me the great support system—my family, friends, colleagues, Jimmy Fund Walk team members, volunteers, and generous donors—it helps me move forward.”