March 20, 2009
The Jimmy Fund toasts outgoing Cheers bartender Eddie Doyle
(photo courtesy of Cheers)
Eddie Doyle has spent nearly 35 years tending bar at the place where "everybody knows your name," but his ties to the Jimmy Fund go back even further.
Doyle was recently laid off from his position as head bartender at Cheers, the Beacon Hill pub that inspired the hit 1980s television show of the same name. But he was just a kid in Brighton during the early 1950s when he first raised money for the Jimmy Fund, which began supporting Dana-Farber Cancer Institute founder Sidney Farber, MD's groundbreaking early research into pediatric cancers in 1948.
"In the summer my buddies and I would get some of those old wooden crates they used to pack fruit in, then go to a drugstore in Cleveland Circle and buy up a bunch of Hershey® bars and Life Savers®," recalled Doyle. "We'd set up the boxes on their end and sell the candy for the Jimmy Fund. When the drugstore found out what we were doing, they started giving us the candy for free."
By the time one summer was over, Doyle estimated, he and his friends had collected between $300 and $400, which their mothers helped them lug by trolley in a huge container over to Braves Field. The old Boston Braves helped launch the Jimmy Fund in 1948, and team owner Lou Perini, another friend of the charity, invited the kids into his office and personally accepted their bounty. "Jim Britt, the Braves broadcaster, even announced all of our names on the air during one of the games."
In the years that followed, Doyle's acts of generosity included leaving a big plastic water cooler jug at the door of Cheers so that patrons could put in money. "Each year we'd bring a check to Fenway near the end of the summer, and present it to a Red Sox player and Suzanne Fountain of the Jimmy Fund," he said. Eventually the Jimmy Fund was added to the group of local charities Doyle and colleagues aided through their annual Cheers for Children event, organized at the pub each December. This fundraiser became so popular it expanded into the historic Hampshire House restaurant located above the bar, and featured live entertainment, a silent auction, and celebrity bartenders — including former Red Sox players and broadcasters.
"We raised more than $1 million, and this was going to be our 30th year," said Doyle, who leaves his job at the end of the month. "I hope we inspire others to get involved and do something positive to benefit such a fine and worthy organization. The Jimmy Fund will always have a special place in my heart."
Red Sox Spanish radio voice Uri Berenguer-Ramos, a cancer survivor treated at Dana-Farber's Jimmy Fund Clinic and a celebrity bartender at several of Doyle's events, said Cheers for Children reflects Doyle's heart and generosity.
"It's been fantastic to see the work that he's done and the money he's brought in," says Berenguer-Ramos. "Last year when I was raising money to run in the Dana-Farber Marathon Challenge, he was one of my role models. He not only gave me inspiration, but he donated a Cheers jacket and a bunch of other items to help me reach my fundraising goal. He's just a wonderful person."
— Saul Wisnia