SACO – Spring is just around the corner. At least that’s what we tell ourselves during the middle of the winter (especially this week). For many people in and around the Saco-Biddeford area, spring is also the time for Mary’s Walk and the Kerrymen 5K. Both events take place the first Sunday after St. Patrick’s Day, and this year that will be Sunday, March 19. It is amazing to see the streets and sidewalks of the city filled with nearly 5,000 citizens from the surrounding communities as they walk and run to make a statement about cancer.
The event has attracted governors, congressmen, mayors, and many other dignitaries over the years, but the core constituency has always been the families. Mothers, fathers, grandparents, infants and teenagers have smiled, laughed and waved to friends as they made their way around the course. There is a time clock, and the 5K is an officially sanctioned race, but most participants just seem happy to be together. On this one crazy day, there’s no limit to the number of smiles and hugs. This year those will be needed more than ever.
For the first time, the event is dedicated to one of the members of the committee that organizes both events. In a strange twist of fate, shortly after the group started meeting again to discuss this year’s event, Ken Janson, a local business owner, Thornton Academy trustee, and musician learned he had cancer. He needed immediate treatment, and as he has witnessed with others, those directly affected by this disease have their lives turned upside down.
Ken, his wife Laurie, and their extended network of family and friends have been working to do everything possible to beat this demon. This past week, Gene Libby, the founder of Mary’s Walk and the Kerrymen 5K, announced that this year, the event would be dedicated to Ken. Everyone on the committee expects Ken to persevere and succeed with his fight, but they also want him to know how much he is loved and how much the committee is thinking of him. Here are Libby’s words as he announces this well-deserved honor.
Ken Janson is a remarkable person. He’s been an important member of the Mary’s Walk Planning Committee since 2001, and during that time, he has donated countless hours to the fight against cancer. Be it fate, irony, or tragic consequence, Ken was diagnosed with esophageal cancer this past November and is now undergoing both radiation and chemotherapy. His unrelenting dedication to our event has been an inspiration for me during the 19 years that Mary’s Walk has remembered my wife’s death in 1997 from Burkett’s Lymphoma. Together, we will have raised (at the end of this campaign) $3 million to support cancer research and patients. At times, we all need a little help and support, and it is now time to support Ken.
When I think about Ken’s dedication and loyalty to Mary’s Walk, I realize it began long before the first walk or run, it began in 1968 – he was a freshman at Thornton Academy when Mary, a junior, befriended him. She was kind, talkative, and radiated a warmth that comforted and endured. Ken has never forgotten. Little did he know where that friendship would lead him in life.
It may not be much of an exaggeration to say that Ken is a juggernaut volunteer. He is generous, kind, hard-working, and passionate about the walk and the run. Mary’s Walk has grown and prospered from his enduring commitment, but our event is not the only cause or group that has received Ken’s support. He has also been a long-time volunteer at Thornton Academy, first as a perennial member of the Alumni Board, and now as a Trustee. Giving back to the community is a way of life for Ken and his family. His wife, Laurie, is the long-time director of the walker registration for Mary’s Walk, and like so many in our community, they have turned our event into a family commitment.
Ken is also an entrepreneur – he is the owner of a marketing and visual display business, Nimlok Maine, and has clients throughout the state, but as many of us have come to know, Ken is far from one-dimensional. Most weekends, he performs and sings at local venues with his own band, Kids at Play. When Ken was first diagnosed and he explained the treatment he would be receiving, we were not sure how often we would see him as we planned this year’s event, but despite a five-day, weekly schedule of chemotherapy and radiation, Ken still attends the weekly planning meeting and continues to contribute his many talents to Mary’s Walk. Amazing!
For the first time in our 19-year history, for all of these reasons, Mary’s Walk dedicates the event to one of our own – Ken Janson. Our event has a history of featuring a cancer survivor as a speaker during the pre-event ceremonies, and next year, for our 20th anniversary, Ken will take the stage and talk about his fight with the disease that has affected so many, too many. He will be our 2018 speaker as participants gather in the Thornton Academy gym.
Ken, we all love you, support you, and with God’s help, we look forward to your comments as a survivor March 18, 2018.
For more information about the walk or the race, please visit MarysWalk.org