Boston is famous for world-class hospitals and diehard sports fans. In 1948, those communities united to raise money so a young cancer patient could watch his favorite baseball team on TV. In the process, a charity was formed that more than 70 years later still raises millions of dollars each year to fight cancer in children and adults alike.
The moment when Dr. Sidney Farber, his patient, Einar “Jimmy” Gustafson, the Boston Braves and a showbiz-linked charity crossed paths to initiate what would become the Jimmy Fund, is memorialized in a statue in Boston’s Longwood neighborhood.
In 1948, Gustafson was 12 years old, and being treated by Dr. Farber for leukemia. The boy was selected to appear on “Truth or Consequences,” a nationally syndicated radio show hosted by Ralph Edwards. During the broadcast from Gustafson’s room at Boston Children’s Hospital, as Edwards spoke to the boy, members of Jimmy’s favorite team, the Boston Braves, made a surprise appearance.
Edwards pleaded for listeners to make donations, so Jimmy could get a TV set to watch the Braves play. Callers from Boston and across the country donated more than $200,000 for the Variety Club of New England Children’s Cancer Research Foundation, which funded Farber’s groundbreaking work. The Variety Club’s cancer research foundation was renamed the Jimmy Fund after the “Truth or Consequences” event.
The Braves left Boston for Milwaukee in 1953. That year, the Red Sox became linked to the Jimmy Fund, and have remained steadfast fundraising champions for cancer research ever since.
The statue was designed by sculptor Brian Hanlon and erected in October 2013 across from the Jimmy Fund headquarters. It is tucked away on a side street amid gleaming hospitals, research labs, and other institutions devoted to healing the sick, delivering babies, and researching diseases of all sorts.