Team JAF Boston Marathon Runner Kyle Santorine

Kyle Santorine has a self-described mentality: “Oh, I can do that.”

Now, living in Boston and spending Marathon Mondays of recent years watching runners come down Boylston Street in the finishing stretch, Kyle would watch, and he thought he could do that too. This year, Kyle and a friend decided to do it and run his first Boston Marathon®.

While researching organizations he wanted to participate in, Kyle found the Joe Andruzzi Foundation (JAF). It was the perfect match.

As a former college football player and an offensive lineman, JAF and Joe Andruzzi’s story might’ve been enough on its own. However, JAF’s mission, helping patients and families deal with the financial burden of a cancer diagnosis, really stood out to Kyle.

Cancer is personal for Kyle and his family. In 1998, Kyle’s baby sister Elizabeth was diagnosed with leukemia, a disease that sadly would take her life just a few years later. Kyle was young then, but he remembered the support of the community around him and his family.

“Being so young, your mind only thinks of the good times,” Kyle said. “So many memories of being in the hospital with all the nurses and all the family members rallying around you and the community coming together to support my family; it was an insane amount of support. One of the reasons I found JAF was that it was exactly the cause I’m looking to support.”

That community support, trying to help fill the gaps when things get hard during a cancer diagnosis, is what Kyle saw as the connection to JAF.

“We didn’t have any organization like this back in 2000 that supported us directly, but there were plenty of pockets of the community that supported us much in the way JAF does for the greater community of New England. People helped with rides to and from school because my parents were at the hospital with my sister…So many of these people and groups came together to support us.”

Kyle and his family have dedicated their time to spread awareness of the disease. They’ve been very active in Relay for Life and are trying to get as many people as possible signed up as bone marrow donors. Kyle’s dad, working for a college outside Philadelphia at the time of his sister’s cancer fight, put on a drive to get people swabbed to try and find a bone marrow donor match. Eventually, Kyle’s mom was found to be a match and became his sister’s donor.

Kyle led the Be the Match club for four years in college, an organization that works to get people onto the donor list.

“All it takes is a swab to get put on the registry.”

Now, in this new chapter of his journey of raising awareness, Kyle is running in memory of his sister, trying to spread awareness about a different side of this disease.

“Not a lot of people think about what the cancer patient and their family is going through on the back end. They don’t see the parents struggling to pay the bills that month because they must decide whether to give money to the hospital to pay that bill or keep the lights on. They don’t see the parents struggling to bring the siblings to school or those other sporting events they might be involved in because they are trying to keep some semblance of a regular childhood for them while also juggling the fact that they need to go to treatments here and doctors’ appointments there. So, the fact that there’s an organization like JAF that helps with finances, transportation, and food and makes the lives of the cancer patients and their families easier makes a world of difference.”

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