“It was typical of Pete to be thinking of the change he could create for others,” says Colleen Hoffman of her brother, Peter Hoffman, SEAS BS ’08. “He was energetic, outgoing, and generous.”
Only months after graduating from the GW School of Engineering and Applied Science, Peter was diagnosed with stage 4 tongue cancer. While he underwent treatment, he began making plans to organize a 5K to raise awareness and funds for research. He passed away 7 months later.
Last year, his family—including his sisters Kaitlin Caruso, GSEHD MEd ’14, and Colleen, a current GWSB student—picked up where he left off and worked to realize the goal Peter didn’t have time to finish. More than 300 walkers and runners came together last April to remember and celebrate Peter at the 5K Walk/Run in Memory of Peter McGee Hoffman, which raised more than $52,000 for oral cancer research.
The event was so successful that the Hoffmans knew they couldn’t just stop at one race. The 2nd 5K Walk/Run in Memory of Peter McGee Hoffman will take place April 16 at Sligo Dennis Avenue Park in Silver Spring, Maryland.
“The planning of it has been a special way for my parents, my sister, and me to honor his wishes,” says Colleen. “We are very blessed to have an exceptional community of family and friends, many of whom have signed up again this year.”
As running season gets into full gear, there are many walk/runs coming up in the D.C. area, but this event stands out in the crowd. It’s the first in the region to focus on oral cancer, a relatively unknown disease, and the Hoffmans have had an incredible response from patients, survivors, and their loved ones, as well as the local dental community. It’s also been an outlet for the GW community—alumni, the Ultimate Frisbee team (of which Peter was a member), and current students—to support their fellow and former Colonials.
“Being part of GW was a really important part of Peter’s life,” says Kaitlin.
“The group Pete found at GW, many through his beloved Ultimate Frisbee team, have become like family to us,” adds Colleen, the third in the Hoffman family to attend GW. “We weren’t surprised to see their support, but we’re so grateful.”
With just over a week to go until race day, the 5K in Peter’s memory has already raised more than $42,000. But the Hoffmans are hoping to do more than just fundraise.
“We want to generate awareness of this lesser known disease both before and after the event,” says Colleen “The effect of oral cancer is far reaching, and so many people are impacted by it.”
The disease kills roughly one person in the United States every hour, according to the Oral Cancer Foundation. Even while sick, Peter wanted to change that, and seven years after his death, his family, friends, Frisbee teammates, and his beloved GW community are helping to fulfill his wish.
—Carey Russell, 2015 5K Walk/Run in Memory of Peter McGee Hoffman participant