Dad goes the extra mile to honor his son

Gerry Forget doesn’t think of himself as a big fundraiser, but his efforts for the Jimmy Fund and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute have become quite prolific. For 28 years, the Rhode Island native has hosted the Woonsocket Little League Jim Carr Memorial through Jimmy Fund Golf, in memory of a coach in his local Little League who passed away from cancer. In 2008, his fundraising became even more personal, when his son Jason was diagnosed with advanced esophageal cancer.

“Jason was 27 at the time, with no symptoms, never sick—it was a big shock,” Gerry reflects. After he felt ill one night and started to vomit, Gerry’s wife, Beverly, took Jason to the emergency room. They kept him overnight to conduct some tests, and in the morning, February 1, 2008, they told the Forgets their son had cancer.

The Forgets soon got to Dana-Farber, and after some initial inpatient treatment, Jason kept his trademark positive attitude while getting treatment from home, choosing his dad’s recliner in the living room over the hospital bed they brought to keep him comfortable. Sadly, Jason’s disease continued to progress, and he passed away on March 15 of that year, just six short weeks after his diagnosis.

“Jason was a regular part of our everyday lives: He worked hard, never partied or smoked, he was just a good, quiet kid,” Gerry remembers. “During his treatment, Jason just dealt with it, and he coped much better than we did. After he passed, we knew we had to keep living because he would want us to keep going.”

“There were so many people who had good things to say about him,” Gerry continues. “We found out he used to buy donuts and coffee for the whole crew every day he’d go into work at the grocery store, and give strangers a lift home with their groceries if he saw them waiting for the bus. That’s just the kind of guy he was.”

A few months after Jason’s passing, Gerry got an email about the Boston Marathon® Jimmy Fund Walk and decided to participate, walking the full 26.2 miles solo in memory of his son. He didn’t go into it with huge fundraising aspirations, thinking maybe he would raise a few hundred dollars, but that first year he raised over $10,000. In 2009, his oldest son, Thomas, and some friends joined Gerry and Team Jason was born. This year marks his 14th as team captain, with more than $187,670 raised in total.

To continue honoring Jason, in 2013, after receiving Jimmy Fund Golf’s prestigious Ken Coleman Extra Mile Award for his dedication to fundraising for Dana-Farber through the Woonsocket Little League Jim Carr Memorial and the Walk, Gerry decided to start a second golf tournament, this time in Jason’s name.

“Golf has a lot of rules, but keeping with Jason’s easygoing attitude, my only rules for the event are to have fun and don’t hurt yourself,” Gerry says. “I want people to come, have fun, and think about the good stuff. We honor Jason and others who have passed, but we do it in an uplifting way.”

Now in its eighth year, the Jason Forget Memorial Jimmy Fund Tournament has a full roster of golfers every year, even during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, when some alterations were included to the event to keep golfers safe. Gerry’s son Thomas always comes home for the event, and Gerry’s wife, Bev, leads the charge on a morning “food fest” of treats each year. Giving back has helped the family remember Jason while making new memories and supporting a cause that means so much to them.

“As the years go by, you never forget and the hurt doesn’t go away, but with time, you start to reflect on memories and you start to smile a lot more than you cry,” he says.

Although Jason’s cancer experience didn’t have a happy ending, Gerry hasn’t lost faith. His golf tournaments, and the funds he raises through the Jimmy Fund Walk, provide unrestricted funding for Dana-Farber, sending money to whichever area is in greatest need, and often providing flexible support for younger researchers and more innovative projects that may not receive traditional funding. During Gerry’s nearly 30 years involved with the Jimmy Fund, and hundreds of thousands of dollars raised, he has seen the progress being made, and he’s not planning to stop any time soon.

Sign up for the 2021 Jimmy Fund Walk: Your Way on October 3 and learn more about how you can get involved with Jimmy Fund Golf to raise funds in support of lifesaving cancer care and research at Dana-Farber.