Mother, son plan 5K fund-raiser to honor cancer victim

Joan Goodchild Community Reporter
Patty McCaffrey and her son, Ryan, are training to run the Boston Marathon in April to raise money for cancer research. The McCaffreys have organized the First Annual Michael McCaffrey Hope Challenge 5K Road Race, which will take place Saturday, March 19. PHOTO/JOANGOODCHILD

Shrewsbury – Patty McCaffrey never imagined a time would come when she would train to run a marathon.

“I used to walk the dog; that was what I did for activity,” she said. “I was never in athletic shape.”

Patty wanted to do something her late husband had planned on, but never got the chance to do – run the Boston Marathon. Patty, a school nurse at Sherwood Middle School in Shrewsbury, and her son, Ryan, are running the Marathon in April to honor the memory of Mike McCaffrey.

Mike, Patty's husband and Ryan's father, passed away in 2008 after a yearlong battle with bladder cancer. Mike and Ryan had planned to run the Marathon together that year, but Mike died just one week before the race. Despite his grief, Ryan still ran.

“He was with me every step of the way,” said Ryan, who ran to raise money for Dana- Farber Cancer Institute, where Mike was treated.

Patty was impressed with the care Mike received at Dana- Farber.

“They really gave us another year with him,” she said.

Ryan had a conversation with his mother several months ago that set her on the path to running.

“I was telling her how I missed Dad and was wishing we could have run together,” he recalled. “I mentioned that I would likely never get a chance to run with a parent and she said “How about I train?””

This year, Ryan and Patty, known as Team McCaffrey, will once again raise money for Dana Farber and cancer research. Training together has been cathartic for them as they still go through the grieving process, Ryan said. It has also become a great bonding experience.

But before they head out to tackle 26.2 miles in the Boston event, Team McCaffrey will hold a local fund-raiser – a 5K race fittingly named the “First Annual Michael Mc- Caffrey Hope Challenge 5K Road Race.” Ryan, who currently works as an aide and is head cross country coach at Shrewsbury High School, said they thought it would be a great way to raise money for cancer research with an event his dad would have loved.

“We thought it would be cool to get people out and running,” he said.

Patty stressed the necessity to raise money for crucial cancer research that will someday save lives.

“It's not just about Dana- Farber,” she said. “It's about raising money for basic cancer research that affects cancer patients all over the world.”

The 5K Road Race/Fun Run in memory of Mike will be Saturday, March 19, starting at 9 a.m. at Sherwood Middle School. All profits will benefit the Dana-Farber Marathon Challenge and will be directed toward the Claudia Adams Barr Program for Innovative Basic Cancer Research. Age Groups include 18 and under, 19 to 29, 30 to 39, 40 to 49, 50 to 59, and 60+. Runners can pre-register for $18 or pay $20 to run the day of the race.

More information is available at Team McCaffrey's website at