Jacqueline Hanson’s brother Blake was diagnosed with stage IV metastatic colorectal cancer at age 38. She describes Blake as an adventure seeker, who travelled the world, loved his family and friends, and was fiercely competitive, which largely contributed to his love of sports. He valued human connection and preferred a deep conversation over building relationships via social media. While Blake was treated across the country in his home state of Washington, Jacqueline recalls the quality care and empathy provided by the team at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute when the family came to Boston for a second opinion during this extremely scary time. To honor Blake and his experience, Jacqueline, her family, and some of Blake’s closest colleagues and friends established the Blake Pottle Foundation to help others through similarly challenging times.
The OPT Outside to Fight Cancer 5K, hosted in June 2022, was the first event organized by the foundation and was inspired by Blake’s passion for living in the moment and enjoying the outdoors. Blake had passed just nine months prior, and the community’s outpouring of support inspired the family to bring their friends and loved ones together to celebrate him and raise money for research and treatment options they hope others will have access to during their own journeys with cancer. The foundation chose to donate proceeds to the Jimmy Fund because of the support they felt during their brief time at Dana-Farber, and the confidence they had in Dana-Farber researchers to improve outcomes for future colorectal cancer patients specifically. “I hope that we can help find breakthroughs and cures for the rare cancers, like Blake’s, with the donations from our race,” shares Jacqueline. The event was a success, with more than 166 participants and volunteers raising more than $9,000 for the Jimmy Fund.
Jacqueline and others in the foundation experienced four months of intense planning, with a focus on using the support of their community to make their vision for the 5K a reality. “At first, a 5K seems doable, but then you get into the details,” she says. “Event planning requires a lot of project management skills and collaborating with people who really care about your cause.” The race gained credibility when their community saw that proceeds would benefit Dana-Farber and the Jimmy Fund. Supporters and participants knew that their donations were supporting a top cancer hospital and helping patients like Blake. “It was so important for us to have guidance and support from Dana-Farber and the Jimmy Fund events team as we were organizing this event during the pandemic,” shares Jacqueline.
Jacqueline and her husband placed flags along the race’s route the night before the event and arrived early the next morning with volunteers from his company, Slalom, family, and friends. Jacqueline was nervous leading up to the race due to record-breaking rainfall in Washington, but happily shared that the sun shined throughout the entire race—which she attributes to Blake’s continued presence.
When asked what advice she would share with fellow Jimmy FundRaisers—community members who organize events in support of Dana-Farber and the Jimmy Fund—Jacqueline says: “The first time is a learning curve. You need a strong, supportive team around you that is just as committed as you are.” When reflecting on the preparation process, she remarks that some aspects of event planning required more lead time than others. She recommends mapping out a plan for the entire event to ensure that things like securing permits and ordering T-shirts are checked off the list earlier in the process and nothing gets forgotten. The foundation plans to do more event promotion and marketing for the event next year, when they have a longer planning process, to encourage wider participation from their community.
One of the most important aspects of the 5K for Jacqueline was that it represented a way to keep family and friends connected. “Everyone is busy, and life passes really fast,” she says. “The 5K will be an annual opportunity to bring everyone together in the summer to celebrate Blake’s life and live as he did—with intention and relentless hope and faith.”
Support Dana-Farber patients and families by joining The Dana-Farber Campaign, our ambitious, multi-year fundraising effort to prevent, treat, and defy cancer. The Dana-Farber Campaign will accelerate the Institute’s strategic priorities by supporting revolutionary science, extraordinary care, and exceptional expertise. As a community, we have the power to create a more hopeful, cancer-free future—in Boston and around the world. Together, we can defy cancer at every turn. Learn more about The Dana-Farber Campaign and how you can get involved at DefyCancer.org.