26 Miles and 50 Cakes
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26 Miles and 50 Cakes

One Grand Circle Associate's Sweet Campaign to Help Fund Cancer Research

Kara O'Toole, Grand Circle's Senior Vice President of Traveler Support and Operations, put foot to pavement on Patriots' Day, 2011, running in her third Boston Marathon. Qualifying times and personal glorification were far from her mind, however. Instead, Kara uses one of Boston's most cherished athletic rituals as a lightening rod to draw attention to a worthy cause: raising money for the Dana Farber Cancer Institute. Like so many of us, her life has been touched by cancer. Her mother received cancer treatment at Dana Farber, and since then, Kara has been dedicated to raising money to fund research for a cure.

"Growing up in Boston, I always wanted to run the Boston Marathon," Kara explains. "I was accepted to run with the Dana Farber Marathon Challenge for the 2009 Boston Marathon." She sought pledges of support from friends, family, and her fellow associates, with 100 per cent of the funds going directly to Dana Farber. "The next year," she continues, "I joined the Patient Partner Program with Dana Farber, and I was matched with a very smart and determined seven-year-old girl named Emily from Hingham. Emily was diagnosed with Acute Lympohoblastic Leukemia in June of 2008, when she was five years old. She is a beautiful little girl who has more mental toughness and fortitude than it takes to run a marathon. This year, I was paired with Emily again and I am happy to say she completed all of her treatments last fall and is now an extremely happy eight-year-old!"

To spread word of Kara's efforts, Joe Cali, Executive Vice President of Grand Circle Integrated Marketing, had the idea for "Kakes for Kara." On the afternoon of April 11, nearly 200 associates gathered to purchase slices of more than 50 different donated cakes—nearly all homemade by fellow associates. After the slices had been sold, the remaining cakes were auctioned off, with all the proceeds going to benefit Kara's campaign. Red Sox tickets were raffled off as well. Over 300 slices were sold, and by the end of the event, over $11,000 was raised.

"The event was a great example of our company's culture at its finest," Cali said. "Lots of fun and laughs were had by the attendees, but—best of all—a great cause was supported, thanks to Kara O'Toole, whose Marathon run was the inspiration."

On the afternoon of April 18th, Kara O'Toole stepped over the Boston Marathon's finish line on Boylston Street in just under four hours and twenty minutes and achieving her goal of raising $15,000 for the Dana Farber Cancer Institute. "I am confident that the treatment both Emily and my mother received at Dana Farber would not have been as effective as it was without research," she selflessly reflected. "So all of the money we raised will go directly to research, so that hopefully my children's children and Emily's children can live in a world without cancer."

Featured in our April 2011 E-Newsletter. Read full issue here.