On Marathon Monday, the Joe Andruzzi Foundation’s President and CEO, Jen Andruzzi, will take the course alongside 20 other incredible runners to help raise funds for the non-profit that bears her name.
Despite it being her 6th marathon, it may just be her toughest.
On Tuesday, December 21, 2021, just days before Christmas, Jen received the news that avid marathon runner and JAF patient recipient Katie Crowell, who in 2015 was pregnant and was diagnosed with breast cancer, had passed away.
Katie Crowell was many things to the Foundation, most importantly a part of the JAF family. Many know her as a Mission Ambassador and/or JAF’s 10,000th grant recipient. She also completed running 41 miles this year on her 41st birthday (May 28, 2021). Katie’s doctor once told her that running was one of the things keeping her going, and not stopping was a key part of her treatment. Stop she didn’t; in the summer of 2020, Katie participated in The Great Virtual Race 1000k Across Tennessee virtual event.
“Over the past 13 plus years, we have had the privilege of meeting many program recipients throughout New England, and by far, Katie’s loss was the toughest to date,” added Jen. “I couldn’t just stand by and not do something in her honor and for all those the Foundation has supported and will continue to help.”
To celebrate Katie’s life and her resilience, Jen is running the 2022 Boston Marathon in her memory. In addition, she has set her fundraising goal to more than two times the team minimum – $26.2k, to be exact (mirroring the 26.2 miles she will run).
“Marathons were Katie’s thing, and not only will this celebrate her strength, but it has provided an outlet for Mike and the girls cheering on Team JAF,” said Jen.
Katie leaves behind her husband, Mike, two beautiful daughters (10 and 7 years old), and many extended family members, including those in the cancer community. A week before Katie passed, Jen visited her in hospice, asking for her blessing to share her story as inspiration for the marathon. Katie gave Jen her blessing, proving to be one of JAF’s ultimate Mission Ambassadors once again.
“If I have learned anything since cancer entered my own home in 2007 with Joe’s diagnosis, it is to show up for those who need you, and that is what JAF does 365 days of the year. I am super angry with cancer right now; it took Katie and so many exceptional individuals from so many of us. That frustration and need to do more led Joe and me to found JAF. So, my goal for this marathon is to celebrate with the patients and families who are still here and pay tribute by celebrating with families who have lost their loved ones to horrific cancer disease,” she added.
Like Katie, Jen also persists. She will cross the finish line on Boylston Street and, with those final steps, will have honored a valiant cancer warrior in addition to raising much-needed funds for cancer patients facing financial hardships. However, it may be in those quietest moments when Jen returns to the day-to-day work of leading the Foundation where she calls upon Katie’s strength yet again. Jen gives a knowing glance upward that one of JAF’s greatest ambassadors is still inspiring her to serve those whose cancer battles are still yet to come.