Michaela McCarthy - Foxboro High School
When Michaela McCarthy was a baby, her first word was not the usual "mama" or "dada." Her first word was "Arthur."
Arthur Flynn was her grandfather on her mother's side of the family, and some of Michaela's earliest and fondest memories center on her grandfather. The Foxboro High School freshman remembers riding with her beloved Grampy on his tractor/ride-on lawn mower when she was still a young girl.
"We were always in his little workshop building something together," she recalls with a smile.
She also recollects piling into a small wagon with her sisters and cousins. Grandfather Arthur would pull his precious cargo across South Street to the Taylor School playground for countless hours of adventure.
Given her strong love for her grandfather, it is no surprise that for the second year in a row, McCarthy is captain of the "Helping Hands" team that will participate in next month's Foxboro Relay For Life event.
"Grampy always had cancer so I always had that connection to the Relay, McCarthy said. "I always thought, 'I'm doing this for him.'"
Michaela is the daughter of Tim and Erin (Flynn) McCarthy who are both natives of Foxboro.
Tim and Erin come from big families and each is the youngest child in the McCarthy and Flynn clans. Michaela is the fourth of 13 grandchildren on her mother's side and on her dad's side she is in the middle of 18 grandchildren.
During a recent interview with mother and daughter, Erin shared that Michaela has been part of Relay For Life events since before she was born. Erin's first Relay For Life was in June of 1997 when she was expecting Michaela.
Erin walked with her sisters, cousins and other members of her family that year in loving memory of Richie Towne. Towne was Erin's uncle and her mother's brother who sadly passed away from lung cancer. Her uncle was originally from Westwood, but was living in Norwood at the time of his death so his family participated in the Relay For Life of Greater Norwood event that first year.
Erin continued to participate and serve as captain each year for the family Relay team including 2005 when she walked the whole night for her Uncle David Towne. He was the second brother Erin's mother lost to cancer. As Erin explains, "He had tongue cancer, was treated and when he passed away was considered cancer free. It was complications from cancer treatment that led to his death."
Erin is currently a kindergarten teacher at the Igo Elementary School and one year when she was studying toward her Master's Degree, class fell on the same weekend as the Relay For Life. She was still able to participate, but passed the torch of leadership to the next generation to her niece Molly of Norton. Molly took over for one year as captain as a seventh grader before handing it over to Michaela.
This year marks Michaela's second year serving as Captain of team "Helping Hands" which is a name she came up with. This veteran fundraiser has been raising donations for her family Relay team since she was a young student at the Taylor Elementary School. It is interesting to note that her Grandfather Arthur did not participate in any Relay For Life events until June of 2006 when he was invited by Michaela to do the Survivor Lap. Erin adds that following his participation in the Survivor Lap, he even started to attend Survivor Dinners. A Survivor Dinner is for anyone who has survived cancer and for his/her caregivers. The dinner is held the first night of the Relay after the Opening Ceremonies and the Survivor Lap. "He was always happy with the meals," Erin shares.
That one invitation from his young granddaughter was all it took and Arthur Flynn continued to walk in the Relay For Life until June of 2010, only a few short weeks before his death. "Grampy passed away in July of 2010. He was 74 years-old and a survivor of throat cancer. He also survived leukemia and lymphoma. Sadly he lost his second battle with leukemia on July 10, 2010," Michaela explains. Erin McCarthy shared that Michaela first learned how to talk by pressing her throat because that is how her grandfather talked.
Michaela recalls, "Last year I walked 26 miles in 18 hours at the Relay. I walked in memory of my grandfather who was and still remains my hero. As early Saturday morning came around at last year's Relay on the Ahern School track, I knew he was there supporting me in spirit and that's why I kept going. I plan to walk even more this year with the help of my hero."
When asked what she likes about being a Relay Team Captain, Michaela responds, "Just being able to get the group together and being a leader. Leadership is a quality that comes easily to me." Michaela received a leadership award and an academic award at the Grade 8 Promotion Ceremony last June at the Ahern Middle School. She is a strong student and is taking honors classes this year at FHS as a freshman. Michaela plays flute in the band, is a member of Student Council and played field hockey last fall. This spring she is playing her first season on the Warrior Girls' Tennis Team.
The Foxboro Relay For Life is scheduled for Friday night, June 21, into Saturday morning, June 22, at the Ahern Middle School. For more information on the Relay and to find out how to support "Helping Hands" go to Google and type in Relay For Life of Greater Foxboro. Once on the website, click on "DONATE" and then click on "Search for a Team." Type in "Helping Hands" and that will lead you to the team page.
According to the website there are 29 teams and 144 participants all walking to end cancer.
Captain Michaela McCarthy will be joined by a combination of family members and friends for this year's Relay event. Team Helping Hands will once again accept the invitation from The American Cancer Society to join the global Relay For Life movement because, "With every event, we're one step closer to a cure."