By Lori Berkey, Contributing Writer
Marlborough – In 2004, Marlborough resident Pete Binkewicz was training to run the Boston Marathon to “check the box” and say he did it. But then he found out, in order to run it he would need to either meet the qualifying time or run to raise money for a nonprofit. Not thinking he could qualify, he decided to run in support of Dana Farber Cancer Institute’s research. He ended up being so passionate about the cause he was running for, that he made it a yearly habit until 2011 when he felt moved to do more. In 2011 he founded the Let’s Stop Cancer (LSC) Foundation to help patients who are being treated for cancer and their families with their nonmedical expenditures.
Binkewicz contacted Boston hospitals that provide cancer treatment and informed them that anyone actively undergoing cancer treatment who has a nonmedical financial need, such as money for gas, tolls or utility bills, rent or mortgage payments, cable bills, credit card bills or other needs, is eligible to be assisted by LSC.
For the first five years when a hospital called Binkewicz to say they have a patient who needs aid, he would reply, “We’re Happy to Help.” One day, it struck him that the foundation wasn’t stopping cancer, but rather supporting the patients with related financial burdens. He then changed the foundation’s name to the Happy to Help Foundation so it would better reflect their work.
During his Dana Farber span, he ran eight marathons for them, with his wife, Julie, joining him for three, together raising about $175,000 for research. He became a board member for their marathon challenge and then served as vice chair for two years.
When training for his ninth marathon, he tore his meniscus, and while rehabbing, his mother was diagnosed with cancer. By watching some of her needs, such as arranging transportation, he was inspired to ease the daily nonmedical burdens that arise when someone undergoes treatment.
According to Binkewicz, since its inception in 2011, his foundation has raised over $200,000 and distributed nearly $175,000 to over 100 families.
Examples of those they have helped are many. A mother of two, whose husband was receiving treatment, received a call from their propane company telling her that they were on the way to pick up their tank because the family was behind on their bills. It was brutally cold outside and when Dana Farber called the foundation, Binkewicz said he was “happy to help.” Binkewicz called the propane company and paid the next six months of heating from foundation money.
Another family helped by the foundation had a child being treated for cancer which consumed their attention. Meanwhile, the young patient’s sibling was unable to join activities or go on play dates because his parents were focused on the other child’s care. Happy to Help paid tuition for the sibling to attend daycare with activities and a summer program where he made friends.
“It’s the best feeling in the world knowing that you just helped somebody in one of their darkest moments and lowest lows – that’s why I do this,” Binkewicz said.
Although Binkewicz now operates the foundation solo, his nonprofit work is supported by his family.
“My wife Julie and my three children [Justin, Kathleen and Caroline] are the support mechanism to help raise funds,” he said. “Moving forward, what I’d like if someone wants to help, they can do a fundraiser, sell brownies, do a car wash, hold a rummage sale and donate proceeds to Happy to Help.”