From refueling to running: Burlington resident tackles Jimmy Fund race

Andrew Verderame (in red) volunteering at the Jimmy Fund Walk refueling station. This year Verderame will be taking on a different role as the Burlington resident competes in the half marathon.

After serving as a volunteer captain with Dana Farber at the Boston Marathon Jimmy Fund Walk at refueling station #3, Burlington’s Andrew Verderame will leave his post this year to join the walkers on Sunday, Sept. 23. The walk is the nation’s most successful single-day fundraising event for the fight against cancer.

Originally from Arizona, Verderame made the trek across the country to Massachusetts for work. His company, located in Andover, has a team that will be participating. Their goal, Verderame said, is to raise $50,000.

As a captain, Verderame was responsible for other volunteers. Now, as a walker, he’ll be responsible for even more: raising money to help in the fight against cancer, a disease that claimed the lives of 595,919 people in 2015, according to the Centers For Disease Control (the latest year of available data).

Cancer is the second leading cause of death in the United States, only exceeded by heart disease. One of every four deaths is caused by cancer. Therefore, it’s safe to say every American knows someone who has either succumbed to cancer or survived it.

In Massachusetts alone, nearly 37,000 cancer cases were reported in 2015.

The most common types of cancer are female breast cancer, prostate cancer, lung and bronchus, colon and rectum, corpus and uterus, melanomas of the skin, urinary bladder, Non-Hodgkin lymphoma, kidney and renal pelvis, and thyroid.

Like most people, Verderame has been affected by the disease. He lost his grandfather and a close friend. His aunt, also diagnosed, survived. One of his fellow teammates is also a cancer survivor having beaten liver cancer.

The Burlington resident will be competing in the half marathon, even though he’s never done it before. The other options are a 5K, 10K or full marathon.

“I’ve always volunteered, but now I have to get in shape,” Verderame said about getting ready for this new adventure.

He added that getting in shape will actually be more difficult than raising the money. There’s no training involved in raising money, you just go out and do it. Verderame noted the best way to convince people to donate is through personal interaction as opposed to emails or texts (or social media - Twitter, Instagram, FaceBook - posts).

He admitted that he’s lucky working in a large company so he has a vast number of resources and people within the company to contact. Not just that, but the higher-ups within the company will want to donate, especially since corporations are ranked and last year his company, Schneider Electric, finished 8th.

Although he’s enjoyed volunteering, Verderame is ready for the tougher challenge.

“I loved leading the other volunteers and keeping the excitement up during the walk,” Verderame mentioned. “But this year, I want to walk for the first time. I have had family members and friends who have suffered from cancer, including several that have passed away. I participate in the Jimmy Fund Walk for them and for the hopes that more developments in healthcare will reduce the effects of cancer."

Besides his teammates, Verderame will basically be walking alone. Being from Arizona, most of his friends and family still live on the west coast. Also, some of the people he has volunteered with over the years have moved away.

To raise the $50,000, the Burlington resident said his team will be holding cookouts, BBQs, raffles, and even bake sales. Included in the raffle are Red Sox tickets, which makes sense as the team is a partner with the Jimmy Fund and each year hosts a radio-telethon along with NESN and WEEI.

Raising that amount of money won’t be easy, but the group has already reached at least $7,000. Last year, the Schneider Electric team raised $32,000, so they set an ambitious goal for 2018. Regardless of whether they can reach it or not, every little bit helps. As anyone who’s ever raised funds can attest to, every dollar is important, especially in the fight against such a deadly disease.

And working with Dana Farber and the Jimmy Fund is great, because as Verderame noted, “they’re very organized and have great communication. They have their (stuff) together.”

He added that another plus is that he knows the money is going to the right place.

Walking will be a much different task for Verderame than volunteering was. As a helper at refueling station #3, he had to be there by 6 a.m. and stay until the last person came through. He said it usually wraps up by noon, and any leftovers the volunteers will donate to the church.

For him, working with Dana Farber was the first time he ever partnered with a cancer fighting organization, either as a volunteer or fundraiser. But it’s an easy decision when you know what they do and have experienced the loss that cancer causes.

Fortunately, in one instance, even though cancer took the life of his friend back when they were in college, he was able to, as Verderame remarked, “send him out with a bang,” as he threw him a big party before he passed.

The first time Verderame ever volunteered he said he had no expectations, but remembered it being cold (though he had just arrived from Arizona, so cold may have been a relative term to him). Since then, he said it’s only gotten better. And whether he walks again, he said he’ll stick with Dana Farber in some capacity.

But Verderame is focused on this year.

“I’m hungry to begin the walk,” he acknowledged. “I had a meeting with the team last week and a switch just flipped.”

Even though 13.1 miles are a lot of miles to walk, the Burlington resident is doing it for cancer survivors and those who’ve passed.

“Everyone knows someone affected by cancer,” he stated.

To donate, visit http://danafarber.jimmyfund.org/site/TR?fr_id=1060&pg=team&team_id=1745&utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=socialshareconfirmation&utm_campaign=WKTS020118B&s_src=WKTS020118B

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