He is one of the lucky ones, and nobody is more aware of that than Salem resident Craige Hird, who was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia when he was only seven years old. The survival rate for children was very low back in the 1980’s, but Hird survived and now wants to give back to the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Jimmy Fund.
Hird is one of around 500 people on the Dana-Farber team that will run the B.A.A. Half Marathon on Sunday. Today he is healthy and in his 29th year of remission. At the time he was diagnosed, Hird and his family were living in Maine. He was treated at the Children’s Cancer Center in Maine, and his doctors conferred with physicians at Dana-Farber, sometimes on a daily basis for the year and a half he underwent treatment.
“I grew up in the little town of Woolwich, which is located outside of Bath (Maine), and I was eight- years old when I got sick,” said Hird, who has lived in Salem for the past four years. “The survival rate was under 20 percent at that time so I realize how lucky I am to be one of the few that survived. It was a frightening time, and I lost many friends, who were being treated when I was.
“I feel amazing now, and I’m excited about everything. This is something I can do to raise money for a such good cause. Cancer touches everybody. I just lost my aunt to cancer, and this is the perfect opportunity for me to do something to help. I got the leaflet about the race right after she was diagnosed. I have the ability to give back to this wonderful place that has helped not only me but so many others. I know my doctors in Maine held conferences with doctors at Dana-Farber on a weekly basis or even more often when necessary.”
This is the 12th year the race has been held. The course is 13.1 miles long with rolling hills along a route that begins and ends at White Stadium in Franklin Park. It goes along Boston’s Emerald Necklace Park in an out and back loop. In the 10 years that Dana-Farber and the Jimmy Fund have partnered with the B.A.A. team members have raised over three million dollars. Each runner is asked to raise a minimum of $500 that will be used for adult and pediatric cancer care and research.
“I set my goal at $500 for now because I have never done a fundraiser before so I didn’t know what to expect,” said Hird. “I have never run the Emerald Necklace course before, and I am excited to do it because I’ve spent a lot of time walking in that area. I lived in Boston for a while, and it’s a big old loop that goes all the way to Fenway. From what I hear there will be several thousand people running.
“I’ve been training on my own. They had a couple of team runs, but I couldn’t make them because I tweaked my hamstring. Running is my time to decompress and think about family members both living and dead, especially the ones lost to cancer.”
Hird began running two years ago as a way to get in shape and to become healthier. He quickly found out he loved doing it.
“I just did the Wicked Half Marathon,” he said. “I’ve built up my distance to 50 miles a week. After the B.A.A. I may do the Devil’s Chase in Salem and perhaps the Turkey Trot before the racing season ends. In the future I think I might run the Boston Marathon for Dana-Farber or the Pan-Mass Challenge. I’d love to do the hundred mile bike run. Every little bit people can do to raise money to help fight cancer helps.”
For further information or to support Hird go to www.rundanafarber.org and click on BAA Half Marathon.