PORTLAND, Maine — A new event happening in Portland to help fight childhood cancer is just one week away.
The event will start at 7 p.m. at Fort Allen Park and will circle the Eastern Promenade to end at Ocean Gateway. Anyone is welcome to participate — and all funds raised will go to the Maine Children's Cancer Program.
"We’re expecting upwards of 500 runners/walkers next Monday," Brian Corcoran, CEO of Shamrock Sports & Entertainment and executive director of the Live + Work in Maine Open, said.
That number is welcomed news to Aaron Weiss D.O., the medical director of the MCCP. He said a lot of the MCCP's programs are funded by philanthropy. It means without the community's support, the resources that MCCP provides children and teenagers in Maine — like nurses and physicians, research staff, and social workers for emotional support — wouldn't be possible.
"Without this, we would really struggle — especially in this climate — to be able to do what we need to do for the children we take care of," Weiss said.
Weiss said the MCCP sees about 40 to 50 new patients every year who have oncology diagnoses. The program also provides treatments for youth with blood disorders. One of the main goals of the MCCP is to help young people stay in place during medical treatments, so they can try to live life as regularly as possible.
"We want the children who are going through their treatment to be able to feel like children," Weiss said. "We want them to feel like everyone else, so for them to be able to attend school is critically important. Mentally, it helps them to get through what they need to get through."
The Cochrane family in Kennebunk can attest to that message. Bobby and Danielle Cochrane's eldest son, Griffin, is now eight years old. Five years ago on June 25, 2017, he was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia.
"It was devastating," Danielle Cochrane said. "You go from being day-to-day routine and thinking about what’s for dinner and kind of managing the house — and then having the world kind of flipped upside down and crushed."
Now, Bobby Cochrane says Griffin is "healthy and happy" and will enter third grade in the fall. He plays hockey, lacrosse, and soccer — something the Cochrane's weren't sure they would ever see.
"Every accomplishment he has — we just never knew that it would happen," Danielle Cochrane said.
The Cochrane's said the MCCP's support was invaluable since it allowed them to stay put in Maine, instead of having to move elsewhere to get Griffin treatment. He has been treatment-free since October of 2020 — but their gratitude is still strong.
"They really treat the whole family — from emotional support and outreach to connecting parents with other parents who’ve gone through the same thing," Bobby Cochrane said.
"They’re like family to us and have really been a shoulder to cry on," Danielle Cochrane said.
For those involved with the Live + Work in Maine Open, the new 5K is an exciting prospect. America's senior vice president and general manager of Fleet, Brian Fournier, said WEX has a long history of working with the Barbara Bush Children's Hospital. He said the company has almost 50 people either affiliated with or volunteering for the event next week.
"It has been a fantastic experience for a great benefit," Fournier said about the open as a whole.
Katie Shorey is the director of engagement for Live + Work in Maine, the open's naming partner. Her team's mission is to encourage more young people to move to Maine — whether they're returning to the state or are brand-new.
Shorey said the 5K will present an opportunity for people to take a look at Portland and learn about great resources in our state, like quality pediatric cancer care.
"If people are moving here, it’s just really important for them to know that this kind of resource exists for families that might need it, so anything that we can do to bring awareness to it [is] important."
You can register for the 5K here.