On April 22, hundreds of walkers and runners will pin on racing bibs and gather at the starting line of the Oral Cancer Foundation 5k Walk/Run in Memory of Peter McGee Hoffman. But this race means a lot more than just 3.1 miles.
The annual event is in its third year, and honors the memory of Peter McGee Hoffman, SEAS BS ’08. Shortly after graduating from GW’s School of Engineering and Applied Science, Peter was diagnosed with stage 4 tongue cancer. Just seven months later, in March 2009, he passed away.
“When he was diagnosed, he didn’t know a lot about oral cancer, and so it became a goal of his to help make more people aware,” says Peter’s sister, Kaitlin Caruso, GSEHD MEd ’14. “He started to develop plans for a 5K while he was undergoing treatment. And having gone to GW, he wanted it to be in the D.C. area.”
Since 2015, Peter’s family—including his parents and sisters Kaitlin and Colleen, GWSB MS ’16—have brought Peter’s vision to life every April. Their goal is “to fundraise, but also raise awareness.” Last year, nearly $60,000 was raised for oral cancer research and close to 500 runners and walkers participated.
“It’s amazing to have the same people return each year,” Kaitlin says. “I think the fact that there are so many people who come to the race is a reflection of how special a brother, son, and friend Peter was.”
The race is held just a few miles outside Silver Spring, Maryland, but Peter’s friends and former classmates have shown their support from around the world. For the past two years, “virtual walkers” have participated by completing their own 3.1 miles in London, New York, and Chicago.
Dozens of runners, like Josh Lasky, CCAS BA ’07, MA ’09, are alumni or current members of GW’s Ultimate Frisbee team, of which Peter was a dedicated member. Josh says honoring his friend alongside the tight-knit frisbee community has been a “special experience.”
“Each year, I look forward to connecting with familiar faces and making new friends, running outside, and hearing the stories of oral cancer survivors,” Josh says. “The run is also a chance to reflect on Peter’s legacy while pushing myself, something he always inspired me to do as my teammate and friend.”
With a little less than a month to go before this year’s race, Kaitlin says Peter’s friends and family are looking forward to continuing to make a difference in 2017.
“Our goal is to keep growing, educate more people, and raise more resources for oral cancer treatment and awareness,” she says. “It’s how we can honor the thoughtful and caring way in which Peter lived.”
Register or donate to the Oral Cancer Foundation 5K Walk/Run in Memory of Peter McGee Hoffman. —Sophie Ota