Jimmy Fund spokespatient keeps Olympic flame alive
After championing the Jimmy Fund's cause for two years, 17-year-old Ashlee Moskwa got what she calls a "once-in-a-lifetime" thank-you present in December 2001: a chance to carry the Olympic flame.
Flame and fame go hand-in-hand for Ashlee Moskwa
The Ridgefield, Conn., resident, who was treated at the Jimmy Fund Clinic from 1999 to 2001 for non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, joined 11,500 individuals helping the flame cross 46 U.S. states en route to the 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake City. Each member of this prestigious relay team carries the flame for 0.2 miles, then keeps the torch used on their run.
Moskwa, who has helped raise awareness and funds for pediatric cancer research and treatment at DFCI through Burger King's "A Chance for KidsSM" program, was chosen for one of six coveted relay spots awarded to the restaurant chain by Olympic sponsor Coca-Cola. In conjunction with Coke, Burger King also sponsored Moskwa's trip with her parents to Miami, Fla., where she took her short run to glory on Dec. 8, 2001.
"It was amazing; I couldn't stop smiling," recalls Moskwa, who dreamed of making the Olympics until illness halted her figure skating career. "I was the youngest torchbearer on the Burger King team, and I met some incredible people taking part in the relay – including a girl my age who was nominated by her mother, a breast cancer survivor, for the support she had given her. I brought my torch to school one day so my friends could see it, and now it's on display in my family's living room."
Then a high school senior who completed her treatment in April 2001, Moskwa took part in "A Chance for Kids" with fellow Jimmy Fund Clinic patients from each New England state. During this annual summer campaign, Burger King customers purchase $1 scratch tickets with prizes ranging from burgers and soft drinks to a new Hyundai automobile. As a "Small Fry" spokespatient for the program, Moskwa did radio interviews, appeared on promotional materials, and even delivered speeches at Burger King management meetings. In 2001 alone, the program raised more than $580,000 for Dana-Farber.
"After going through treatment for three years, I've come to realize I love children," says Moskwa. "I'm leaning toward a career in pediatric oncology, and I'm sure my experience at Dana-Farber has a lot to do with my interest. I want to give something back and help others who are going through what I did."
The teen was not the only member of the torch-running contingent with ties to Dana-Farber. Tim Bassett of Greenland, N.H., who carried the flame in York, Maine, and Dick Smitley of Dedham, who took his trek in Cambridge, are both veteran participants of a much longer run: the Dana-Farber Marathon Challenge, which supports the Claudia Adams Barr Program in Innovative Basic Cancer Research here. Bassett made his torch run in memory of his son, T.J., a Jimmy Fund Clinic patient who died of a brain tumor at age 12 in 1989, while Smitley honored a colleague at Dedham High School who was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. The late Ron Burton, a longtime DFCI patient and former New England Patriots football great, also ran a leg with the torch through downtown Boston.