Last Christmas Eve, CNN journalist Andrew Kaczynski suffered the most heartbreaking loss imaginable: That of his nine-month-old daughter Francesca to pediatric brain cancer.
Since her death, the political reporter has spearheaded numerous fundraising and awareness campaigns for children battling cancer.
When Kaczynski ran the Boston Marathon on Monday, he also raised $200,000 for the Infant Brain Tumor Program at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and dedicated each of the 26 miles to a child who is battling or has battled cancer.
At six months old, Francesca — nicknamed “Beans” — was diagnosed with a rare, aggressive brain tumor. Kaczynski told Boston.com it was then that he and his wife, Wall Street Journal reporter Rachel Ensign, moved their family to Boston for treatment at Boston Children’s Hospital.
In the interview, Kaczynski recounted memories of walking along the Charles River with Ensign while Francesca underwent treatments, taking their daughter to see the “Make Way for Ducklings” statue in the Public Garden, and the kindness the friends and strangers in Boston enveloped him in after she passed.
“We will never, ever forget the good people who were there for us in our darkest moments,” he wrote on his Marathon fundraising page. Kaczynski announced his intent to run in September and dedicated the journey to children battling pediatric cancers.
Kaczynski set his Marathon fundraising goal at $200,000 but ultimately surpassed it the day of the race. That sum will contribute to the more than $1.3 million Kaczynski and Ensign have already raised for pediatric cancer research through the Team Beans Fund, a page set up after Francesca’s death. After 5 p.m., the total raised for Kaczynski’s run sits around $222,511, according to the Marathon fundraising page.
Beginning a few minutes after 11 a.m. on Oct. 11, Kaczynski chronicled his run via Twitter thread, dedicating each one of the 26 miles to a child who is battling or has battled cancer.
Most of the stories Kaczynski shared were quote tweets of previous instances of him sharing their journeys, all in an attempt to spread awareness for childhood cancer.
Kaczynski specifically spotlighted a few children receiving treatment at Boston Children’s Hospital, not a far cry from the marathon course.
A good majority of the stories Kaczynski shared were those of children diagnosed with the same form of tumor Francesca had: ATRT, or Atypical Teratoid Rhabdoid Tumors. These rare, incredibly fast-growing tumors of the brain and spinal cord affect the central nervous system and are especially aggressive in children, according to oncological studies.
Mile 20, for Lenny.— andrew kaczynski (@KFILE) October 11, 2021
Around 3 p.m., he launched the last tweet of his thread, honoring Francesca by running the last mile in her name.
After finishing the course in just over four hours, Kaczynski posted a selfie from the finish line, complete with his medal and a foil blanket. The tweet was addressed to his daughter: “We did it Beans.”
Grace Griffin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @GraceMGriffin.