Your Impact: The Lahey Cancer Institute 5K Walk & Run

Funds raised pay for improvements, services that benefit patients with cancer

Thousands of people have taken to the streets of Burlington for the Lahey Cancer Institute 5K Walk & Run over the last 14 years, raising more than $3 million for cancer research, enhanced patient and survivor programs, equipment and services, and more. 

Last year, more than 1,500 participants raised more than $534,000 to benefit patients at  Lahey Cancer Institute sites in Winchester, Burlington, Peabody, Beverly and Gloucester. 

At Winchester Hospital, some funds from the 5K are deposited into the Heidbreder Fund, also known as the Patient Comfort Fund. This fund is named for Richard Heidbreder, MD, Winchester’s former medical director of radiation oncology. It is an important way the staff helps care for the whole patient, said Nurse Manager Sue Sheehan, RN, MS, OCN. About $3,000 in gift cards are distributed each month to patients in need. 

The fund was started with a generous gift in 2011 by Dr. Heidbreder and his wife, Susan, before the doctor succumbed to ALS, which is also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. His dream was to help patients outside of their cancer treatments.

Grants from the Heidbreder Fund purchase gift cards to help patients pay for rides to and from appointments and other expenses, such as food and gas. The fund also helps patients pay for services not covered by insurance, such as massage, acupuncture and Reiki, which help alleviate pain. “It makes the patient’s cancer journey just a bit easier,” said Jennifer Yorko, director of the oncology service line at Winchester. 

The money raised in 2019 at the 5K also allowed the Center for Cancer Care to purchase a Piccolo Xpress Chemistry Analyzer, which assesses a patient’s liver function prior to chemotherapy. Staff used to have to call a courier to deliver samples to the hospital for testing, which sometimes meant a two-hour delay for patients. 

The Center for Cancer Care’s infusion visitor chairs in the waiting room also will get a facelift, with reupholstered chairs making the room more welcoming. 

Winchester’s longtime team, Got Hope!, is a mainstay of the event. Colleagues from the Cancer Center start fundraising every year before registration for the race even opens. They hold fundraisers and sell paper sneakers on which people can write the names of loved ones who have either survived or been lost to cancer. Staff hang the sneakers on the wall behind the reception area for visitors and patients to see.

“It makes me very proud,” said Sue, the Got Hope! captain. “The staff are very excited about it and feel it’s important.”