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Grandfather's cancer spurred
Quincy youth's philanthropy

Posted by dinouye  June 5, 2010 07:44 PM

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Jonathan Sheehan was 7 when he learned that his beloved grandfather, Russell Sheehan [at left, with Jonathan}, had renal-cell cancer.

sheehans.jpgWhile saddened by the news, the Quincy youth did what a lot of 7-year-old kids might not have the wherewithal to do: He started raising money for the PMC Hingham Kids ride, part of the Pan Massachusetts Challenge, a statewide bicycling fund-raiser that has raised $270 million for cancer research since it began in 1980.

In his first three years of involvement, Jonathan raised more than $8,000. This year, he’s already boosted that total to $10,000 and is going for more.

The 4th Annual PMC Hingham Kids Ride is next Sunday, starting at 9 a.m. in Wompatuck State Park. Jonathan will be there, part of the three-kid Team Russ, comprised of himself, sister Julianne, 7, and cousin Cathryn Johnson, 10, of Whitman.

Russell Sheehan, who died in March at age 64, was a retired business manager and trust fund administrator for Local 103 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers in Dorchester.

‘‘My grandfather was very courageous and very funny,’’ Jonathan said. ‘‘He didn’t want to know he was very sick. He just kept going. He even put together a 1,000-piece cabinet from Ikea for me, all on his own. He didn’t want any help.’’

Special memories the young man has of his grandfather include shooting a BB gun with him, swimming in his pool at his Quincy home, and sharing box seats at a Red Sox game.

Janice Sheehan, his mom, said that when her father-in-law was first diagnosed with cancer, ‘‘Jonathan asked, ‘What can I do?’ I told him there’s not much we can do, just give him lots of hugs and kisses and we’ll get through it. Then I showed him an article about the ride and he said, ‘Can you sign me up?’ "

A big part of Jonathan’s fund-raising can be attributed to the generosity of Local 103 workers. His father, Jeff Sheehan, is a member of the union and his son would come to the shop to seek donations.

Jonathan is the top fund-raising kid in the event, his mother said. The boy, who loves playing hockey, soccer, and a myriad of other sports, finishes fifth grade at Merrymount School this year, and will go to Central Middle School in the fall.

‘‘He’s always been that way, always wanting to help,’’ Janice Sheehan said, adding that he gives time to Cradles to Crayons in North Quincy, which collects toys, car seats, and other items for newborns and infants. ‘‘He’s done that every month for the past two years with some of his friends.’’

The PMC honors children who raise more than $250 as Heavy Hitters, and Jonathan will receive a special honor for raising more than $1,000 each year. The PMC Hingham Kids ride expects 450 kids, ages 3 to 15, to ride up to six miles on any of five routes designed for varying levels of cycling skills. Registration is open now at

For his part, Jonathan will ride until he’s not a kid any more — then he’ll ride in the adult division, he said.

‘‘He’s always had that in him, even at a young age,’’ Janice Sheehan said. ‘‘I’m glad he can apply that now, and I know it will continue throughout the rest of his life.’’

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