By Katy Jankura '18
WILLIMANTIC, Conn. -- Michelle Cunningham, one of the best two-sport female athletes in Eastern history and a recent member of the E-Club (2012) and Little East Conference (2016) Hall of Fame, continues her legacy in a different direction.
The former volleyball and softball great from the mid-1990s is currently participating in Moving Mountains for Multiple Myeloma (MM4MM) program, which is a collaboration between the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation (MMRF), Takeda Oncology, and CURE Media Group.
Cunnningham shows much passion for the fundraising and research-based group, as she lost her mother, Linda M. Kurkowski Cunningham, to multiple myeloma in 2016.
“It will be an emotional trip, but I will make peace with the loss of my mother,” Cunningham expresses, who currently resides in Rhode Island. “You just need to take a step back.”
Multiple myeloma is a form of blood cancer that currently has no cure. However, Cunningham and others participating in MM4MM find that there is much progress can be made.
As a participant in MM4MM, Cunningham will be hiking the Grand Canyon this May to raise money for MMRF and the drug trials the organization tests.
As a part of her hiking adventure, a team of 14 participants who have each been affected by multiple myeloma will join Cunningham on the hike. The goal of the team, comprised of myeloma patients, doctors, family members, and caregivers, is to raise $3,000 each for MM4MM before they begin their descent into the canyon.
Although there is no cap for the donations, Cunningham has currently raised roughly $2,800, which will be donated to MMRF, as Takeda Oncology will cover all travel and ground expenses. Takeda Oncology, whose motto is “We Aspire to Cure Cancer,” discovers and researches new medicines to cure cancer.
Although Cunningham claims it was a “fluke” to find MM4MM on Facebook, she is thankful to be a part of the team. The selection process for the MM4MM teams has a science behind it, in which all participants are chosen based on their application, background, and their story with multiple myeloma.
As Cunningham prepares to hike the Bright Angel Trail on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon through her current military training in Mississippi, she will remember why she is a part of this cause in the first place.
Cunningham’s message from this trip will not only be to raise awareness about multiple myeloma, but to also keep her mother’s memory alive. “Every time I get a donation, it is an act of someone remembering my mother.”
Cunningham points out that her mother was an essential part of her athletic life both at Barnstable High School on Cape Cod, and at Eastern, as she supported Cunningham at all of her games.
She will be re-paying that devotion to her mother as she participates in the MM4MM program and in a 5K in Boston for MMRF Race for Research on April 30.
On May 4, Cunningham will travel to Arizona to meet her team (four are myeloma patients) and to raise more money for MMRF. Three days later, the 12-mile hike will begin, which the group hopes to complete in nine hours.
The team goal is to raise a total of $80,000. To learn more and to donate to Michelle Cunningham’s cause, use this link: https://endurance.themmrf.org/2017GrandCanyon/MichelleLCunninghamJoost