Theresa McGovern and her son Samuel. McGovern is walking the 26th annual Boston Marathon Jimmy Fund Walk to raise money for cancer research.
Theresa McGovern and her son Samuel. McGovern is walking the 26th annual Boston Marathon Jimmy Fund Walk to raise money for cancer research. (Photo courtesy McGovern family)

HINSDALE -- Those who've suffered the ultimate loss, that of a child, might take inspiration from a town mother preparing to walk 13 miles in memory of her son Samuel.

Theresa McGovern and a team of friends and family have signed up for the 26th annual Boston Marathon Jimmy Fund Walk as team Samuel's Saints. McGovern said she expects around 15 people will don trainers and join her for the half-marathon trek in Boston on Sept. 21.

In 2011, Samuel McGovern died at the age of 7 of rhabdomyosarcoma, a muscle cancer, after receiving treatment at Mass General Hospital, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute's Jimmy Fund Clinic and Boston Children's Hospital.

Elaine Kalinowski, a friend and coworker of McGovern's who will be walking with Samuel's Saints, said "Theresa has this energy you can't resist."

"She's turning a horrible tragedy into a really touching commemoration of her son," Kalinowski said.

More than 8,500 people are anticipated to take part in the Boston Marathon Jimmy Fund Walk, with organizers having set a goal of raising $7.5 million to support life-saving adult and pediatric patient care and cancer research at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

Participants can choose among four distances to walk -- one, five, 13 or a full, 26.2-mile marathon. Last year McGovern walked the five-mile route with several friends, her first time taking part.

She told The Eagle a lasting gratitude for the treatment Samuel received and desire to help prevent other families from losing a child fuels her continued participation.

"These are wonderful organizations," McGovern said. "They meet you at the toughest time imaginable and try to make things easier. I can't say enough. It's like a family there."

And of course it serves as a time to remember and honor Samuel's life.

"He's my true hero," McGovern said. "Even at that innocent age, he knew what he had to do and never once complained. It was inspirational."

In light of Mother's Day, McGovern recalled a gift she received from Samuel on the holiday.

"The last Mother's Day gift he gave me was a picture he drew [at the Jimmy Fund Clinic] of a mountain with clouds, trees and flowers," she said. "It was a beautiful."

McGovern's husband, Matthew, and 14-year-old son, Timothy, will be there to watch Samuel's Saints from the sidelines during the September event.

The family is also in the process planning several local fundraisers to benefit the Jimmy Fund.

These include a tag sale scheduled to run from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. at 715 Lanesboro Road in Lanesborough on June 7 and yet-to-be scheduled Chinese auctions, car washes and jewelry parties. Additionally, Arizona Pizza will donate 20 percent of all sales on June 14 to the fund in honor of Samuel.

McGovern herself continues to work in the field of cancer treatment at Berkshire Hematology and Oncology.

"That tells you something about her character," Kalinowski said. "To lose a son to cancer and still work in the field takes incredible strength."

"Before working in oncology I had no idea, but now I do and it breaks my heart to know there's so many children out there with cancer," McGovern said. "This gives me a little hope."

To reach Phil Demers:
pdemers@berkshireeagle.com
or (413) 281-2859.
On Twitter: @BE_PhilD