Lyndeborough family participates in Jimmy Fund Walk for daughter with cancer

Jen Hanks with her team and daughter, Emily, at the 2022 Jimmy Fund Walk.

Jen Hanks with her team and daughter, Emily, at the 2022 Jimmy Fund Walk. COURTESY PHOTO—

Emily Hanks of Lyndeborough is being recognized as a Jimmy Fund Walk Hero.

Emily Hanks of Lyndeborough is being recognized as a Jimmy Fund Walk Hero. COURTESY PHOTO—

Jen Hanks and her 14-year-old daughter, Emily Hanks.

Jen Hanks and her 14-year-old daughter, Emily Hanks. STAFF PHOTO BY ASHLEY SAARI—

By ASHLEY SAARI

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

Published: 09-27-2023 11:31 AM

A Lyndeborough family is training for the Boston Marathon Jimmy Fund Walk, hoping to raise funds to benefit the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston in honor of their daughter, 14-year-old Emily Hanks, who has acute lymphoblastic lymphoma.

Emily’s mother, Jen Hanks, and her sister will be among the thousands of walkers participating in the marathon or half-marathon route on Sunday, after raising more than $6,500 as of Wednesday in support of the Jimmy Fund. This will be Jen Hanks’ second time walking for her daughter since Emily’s diagnosis at the age of 12.

Jen said she’s aware how blessed their family has been to be able to have Emily’s treatment at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, and said she wants to do what she can to support their ongoing mission.

“Dana-Farber is the No. 1 cancer facility in the world. People fly their children from all over the world to be treated at the Jimmy Fund clinic. Our family has been impacted by cancer in multiple ways – my sister-in-law, my mother, grandparents, and having it impact your child, is just life-altering,” Jen said. “We can't make cancer go away. But what we can do is raise funds and awareness to bring as much support as possible to families that need it.”

The Jimmy Fund Walk has raised more than $167 million for the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute over the past 34 years, including $8.8 million in 2022, its most-successful year yet.

Emily is one of this year’s “Walk Heroes,” meaning her picture and a little bit of her story will be placed on a mile marker along the marathon route. She was also recognized as a Walk Hero in the 2022 walk.

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Though Emily is nearing the end of her cancer treatment, with her last chemotherapy treatment scheduled for the end of this year, her life will likely be affected long after treatment is complete.

Before her diagnosis, Emily loved dancing, participating in an intermediate class for ballet, lyrical, tap and jazz. She still participates as a teacher’s assistant but hasn’t been able to dance, and even after the completion of her treatment, her chemotherapy has had such an impact on her bones that she will have to undergo a hip replacement before she can get back on the dance floor.

Emily said she enjoys the teen room at the Jimmy Fund clinic, and has bonded with one of the childhood specialists there. She said when she’s an adult, she’d like to work as a childhood specialist or a special education teacher herself, as she loves working with children.

These are the kinds of details shared on the Walk Hero posters. Jen said last year, her team made a stop when they found her daughter’s mile marker poster, saying it was one of the most-emotional moments of the day in a day that was already pretty fraught.

“It was a very emotional moment, especially because at that moment, she was in the thick of her treatment. Me, being her mother, I just broke down a little bit. It meant so much that all of [my teammates] were there to support her, and the Jimmy Fund. I’ll remember that moment,” Jen said.

Jen said in the 2022 walk, there was an atmosphere of camaraderie and excitement.

“It's a very long day, but it's a very exciting environment,” Jen said. “It’s a very supportive environment. Everyone there is there for a common purpose. Everyone there has been somehow impacted by cancer.”

The Jimmy Fund Walk has multiple options: a 5K walk, a 10K walk, a half-marathon or a full marathon. Jen participated in the half-marathon last year, and will again this year, but hopes to eventually work her way up to the full marathon.

Emily hopes that next year, she will have her new hip, and be able to participate with her family.

To donate to Hanks’ Jimmy Fund Walk team, donations are accepted at danafarber.jimmyfund.org/site/TR?px=2327024&pg=personal&fr_id=2000 through Oct. 31.

Donations directly to the Hanks family, to help offset ongoing medical and travel costs, can be made through GoFundMe at gofund.me/35c71bd8, or through the nonprofit Annie’s Angels at anniesangels.org/emilys-assistance-fund.

Ashley Saari can be reached at 603-924-7172, Ext. 244, or asaari@ledgertranscript.com. She’s on X @AshleySaariMLT.