By Dakota Antelman
Hudson – Every fall for the past 21 years, Hudson native Kevin Blanchard has walked from Hopkinton to Boston to raise money for cancer research. Blanchard said that, as long as there is a need for funding, he will keep walking.
Each year, he sets out early in the morning near Hopkinton center and walks for roughly six hours to Copley Square in Boston. He participates in the Jimmy Fund’s annual Boston Marathon walk and collects donations in advance from friends, family, coworkers, and students at Hudson High School where he works as a janitor.
Blanchard’s motivation, in walking and in fundraising, roots in his own desire for a cure.
“When I see pictures of infants and young kids that have cancer, it’s not right,” he said. “If I can do anything to help to find a cure, then I’ll do that. That’s why I do it. To see an infant with cancer is disgusting. It breaks my heart.”
Blanchard regularly receives between $70-$80 in donations per year from students and friends, and then donates another $220 of his own money to the cause.
Siobhan Richards, a Hudson High junior who donated to Blanchard this year after her uncle passed away from cancer, noted how donating to him in particular was an easy decision.
“My uncle meant a lot to me so I wanted to do a little something to help with cancer research,” Richards said. “What better way than to support someone that I already have a good connection with?”
Blanchard has seen cancer touch his own life as well. In December of last year, he lost one of his close friends to the disease. In 1983, his mother-in-law, whom he was never able to meet, also passed away from cancer.
Blanchard said he still sees the grief his wife feels over her mother’s death. He sees participating in the walk as a way of supporting and recognizing his late mother-in-law.
“Things are getting better; they’re curing more of it but we’re not done yet,” Blanchard said. “[Because of] the way I see it affect my wife, I know that if there is anything I can do to help out, I do it. I know she appreciates it.”
Though he said that the walk itself has undergone few changes since he started, Blanchard noted that every year his experience of it is different as well.
He has met new people every time he walks, not once seeing them again, but remembering their brief interaction nonetheless.
This year, he came across a Hudson resident who recognized his Hudson High backpack.
“She said ‘Are you from Hudson?’ and I said ‘Yeah!’” Blanchard explained. “She graduated in 1988. You meet different people every year. It’s fun and it’s for a great cause.”
A year earlier, Blanchard met a Bolton native who, like him, was an avid motorcyclist. At the end of that walk, he also met Boston Marathon bombing survivor Carlos Arredondo, who rose to fame in 2013 as the “Man in the Cowboy Hat.”
Overall, Blanchard embraces the communal feeling of the walk, commending the volunteers that dot the road to Boston.
“Everyone’s nice to you,” Blanchard explained. “All the people that volunteer along the way are amazing.”
Over two decades of participating in the walk, Blanchard has continued to witness the effects of cancer on those in his life.
“He was only 55 and I have other family members have had young children who had it,” Blanchard said of his friend who died in December. “I hate to say it but every family has an experience with it. It’s not prejudiced by any means.”
Blanchard walks every year, rarely stopping but still meeting people along the way. He said he will continue participating every year for as long as he can. He hopes, however, that one day his funds will no longer be needed.
“I don’t mind doing the walk,” Blanchard said. “But I hope that, at some point, we don’t have to do it anymore.”