By Catherine Twing, Contributing Writer
Westborough – When Corinne Sciarappa was diagnosed with alveolar rhabdomyosarcoma at age 14, her family wanted to fight for a cure and raise awareness.
Now a year after her passing, Corinne’s family continues to walk and raise money to support research of this rare childhood cancer through the annual Jimmy Fund Walk. Their team, Sciarappa Strong, has raised over $150,000 in total and has grown from just her parents to over 50 people last year.
“If we can do anything to help, we do,” said Corinne’s mother, Pauline Sciarappa. “My husband walked the first year, and all the years after that either he walked or I walked, and Corinne joined us for as many of the walks as possible.”
This year the walk has been dubbed the Jimmy Fund Walk “Your Way” since they cannot hold the walk along the typical course. The Sciarappa Strong team, consisting of around 40 members, plans to meet on Oct. 4 at Uhlman’s Ice Cream in Westborough at 10 a.m. and walk to Civic Kitchen where they will share lunch outside. Then the group will walk back to Uhlman’s for an afternoon treat.
The money raised will go toward fighting the specific type of cancer Corinne had, and providing compassionate care to patients. Sciarappa said researchers are making progress.
“We heard this summer from two of the main researchers at Dana Farber that they have identified the Achilles’ heel and now they just need to figure out how to attack,” Sciarappa said. “So we will keep walking, we will hold blood drives to support patients like Corinne.”
Their most recent blood drive was in February, and they hope to hold more once they are able.
“You can’t buy blood, you can’t just get it at Target,” Sciarappa pointed out, explaining you need to rely on the kindness of others for that life-saving blood to be available.
Although she was just 18, Corinne accomplished a lot in her life.
She had a passion for music and theater and was president of her school’s LGBTQ group, as well as a speaker for PFLAG. She also loved animals.
“Corinne was a real dynamo, she performed in theater. She got her chemo and went on stage that same day,” Sciarappa said of her daughter. “She loved to perform, was an oboist and was very talented at a young age.”
As a member of the Westborough High School Marching Band, Corinne also learned to play flute since the oboe is not a marching instrument.
Throughout her treatments, music therapy at the Jimmy Fund Clinic is what kept her spirits high.
“The music therapy program really made it possible for her to walk into the Jimmy Fund Clinic. It’s not a fun place, but if you’ve gotta do it, you have to have some good people around. [Jimmy Fund Clinic music therapist] Channing and Corinne shared a very special bond,” she said.
Kate, one of the music therapists, gave Corinne a ukulele which she learned quickly and loved to play at the clinic, and also at home with friends and family, and with her cat, Mira. Corinne even painted a few ukuleles for other patients.
Corinne was very interested in science. She had been accepted to Northeastern University and wanted to study cell and molecular biology.
While undergoing treatment, she won the Emperor’s Science Award for an essay that she wrote, and as part of the award had the chance to be an intern at Dana Farber Cancer Institute.
“She had an employee ID, she’d get her chemo and then go to the lab,” her mom said. “She worked with Dr. Rizwan Haq working on melanoma. She was passionate about it and wanted to make a difference. And she did.”