Jackie and Melissa Williams will honor their late mother by running the Boston Marathon April 20

The running duo, along with their father, Mike Williams, held a fundraiser Saturday night at the Holyoke Lodge of Elks.

The sisters also set up a donation page in the hope of collecting $15,000 for the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, where their mother, Sue, underwent treatment in 2015.

Jackie Williams, who lives in East Boston, will run her fifth Boston Marathon this year. She sat out last year’s race after enduring a windy and rainy trek in 2018. “It was a monsoon the whole time,” she said.

Training with her sister has made the grueling runs more bearable, logging dozens of miles weekly over Boston’s streets.

The Williams sisters, along with runners from Dana-Farber, are coached by Jack Fultz, who won Boston in 1976. “I feel better with where I’m at then in past years,” she said. “I feel good about it.”

The Dana-Farber team requires runners to raise a minimum of $7,500 apiece. The proceeds will benefit the Claudia Adams Barr Program, which supports cancer research at the institute. Sue Williams underwent treatments at Dana-Farber, including an experimental course.

So far, the sisters raised $4,000 in donations, with the goal of exceeding the $15,000 minimum. “When you’re not thinking about running, you’re thinking about the numbers to the fundraising,” Jackie Williams said. “I’ve been lucky in the past years and raised about $50,000 in total.”

The Holyoke fundraiser brings together family, friends and former Holyoke High classmates. “It’s a nice time to get all the people who loved her together and celebrate her life,” she said. “I feel like this fundraiser is the fun part of the season.”

Jackie William 32, recalled a photo taken of her and her mother at mile-24 in the 2015 marathon.

“The first year I ran, my mom was a patient at Dana-Farber undergoing a clinical trial. She passed away the summer after that,” she said. “It was my first marathon, and I had never run that far in my life. I hugged her, and I just started sobbing.”

The site of her mother inspired her to cover the final two-miles.

In high school and college, Jackie Williams was a cheerleader. “It took my parents by surprise that I was doing this,” she said. “They thought I was a little bit crazy. I called her after all my long runs.”

Though she ran track and cross-country in high school, the Boston Marathon is a first for Melissa Williams. “It’s going a lot better than I expected. It helps to be on a good team. A lot of people from Dana-Farber get together,” she said.

Melissa Williams takes tips from her sister about pacing, how to run hills, and to enjoy the experience. “I’m such an optimist that in my head everything is going good,” she said. “I’m a positive thinker. It’s going according to plan.”

posted Tuesday February 11th
by Dennis Hohenberger