Andrew Kaczynski, a CNN political reporter, is running in the Boston Marathon Monday in memory of his baby daughter, Francesca. Nicknamed “Beans,” she died at just 9 months old of brain cancer on Christmas Eve. Now, Kaczynski is running to raise awareness for pediatric cancer.
Kaczynski and his wife, Wall Street Journal reporter Rachel Louise Ensign, moved to Boston to try to get Francesca the best help they could at Boston Children’s Hospital. Throughout the entire country, there were only four oncologists who specialized in her specific type of cancer, named ATRT. After receiving the diagnosis, the couple underwent “literally like the worst reporting project ever” of their journalist careers, packed up, and moved their lives from Brooklyn to Boston.
After Francesca’s passing three months later, Andrew Kaczynski said that his “mission in life has changed.”
“When something traumatic like this happens to you, it makes you realign your priorities,” he told Town & Country this past June. Creating “Team Beans,” named after his daughter’s nickname, the awareness campaign got the attention of cyclist Danielle Pourbaix, who ended up raising over $610,000 for ATRT research after she rode in the Dana-Farber’s PMC Winter Cycle charity event in Francesca’s name. The Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, for which the event was named, was where Francesca received treatment at Boston’s Children’s Hospital.
The 9-month-old had won the hearts of doctors and readers of her story during her time at the Cancer Institute, with her father describing her as “the most smiley baby, and it was hard to find her not smiling.”
Since her death, Andrew Kaczynski and his wife have raised over $1.3 million for pediatric cancer research. Running in the Boston Marathon on Monday, Kaczynski will be wearing a “Team Beans” T-Shirt decorated with the names of other pediatric cancer fighters.
“I’m running the marathon not just for Francesca but for all of those other kids,” he said on Twitter. “My child died of cancer and every single day there is another child like her.”
Receiving over 200 submissions from parents sharing stories of their infant’s fights, Kaczynski said that he was “so overwhelmed with the response.”
“We just want to be seen and acknowledged that we’re real people and our children were real people,” he told Boston.com. “And don’t just push away childhood cancer into this box of something horrible that happened to someone else but won’t happen to me. That’s part why I try to keep it on the forefront.”
According to the National Pediatric Cancer Foundation, only 4% of the annual funding for cancer provided by the government goes toward pediatric cancer. With such slim margins compared to more prominent forms of cancer in adults, research into rare childhood cancers like ATRT go underfunded.
“I want people to know that we can’t do this, we can’t find cures unless there’s money,” he said. “It’s not coming from the private sector, so it’s up to us to step forward.”
“I’m filled with a lot of hope because advances are being made in treatment,” Andrew Kaczynski revealed on a more positive note. “Even though it’s hard because Francesca died, I have some hope too knowing our money is going to help advance those treatments, especially at Dana-Farber, for brain cancer in young children.”
For the race on Monday, Team Beans raised over $200,000. Testimonials have been pouring into his Twitter DM‘s, where he reposts and shares their stories.
“To be able to do something for [Francesca’s] legacy and help bring money to her fund at Dana-Farber means so much to me,” he said. As he runs in the Boston Marathon on Monday, he will “feel her spirit” as he runs past Boston monuments where they once shared memories together.