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For these parents, the Honolulu Marathon is more than a race — it’s a promise to their son

Published: Dec. 11, 2021 at 5:59 PM HST|Updated: Dec. 11, 2021 at 6:21 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The Honolulu Marathon is set to make it’s anticipated return on Sunday.

Oahu’s premier running event draws thousands from around the country to the streets of Honolulu, but this year a family from Pennsylvania is set to make the 26.2-mile trek for a cause that’s close to their hearts.

In 2017, their 14-year-old son, Jake McHugh, was diagnosed with a rare form of pediatric cancer. The odds were stacked against him, but he kept up his fight until he passed away in February of 2018.

Since then his parents Matt and Sandy McHugh have made it their mission to raise awareness for pediatric cancer research in memory of their son.

“One of our motto’s, one of the things we say is keep going. Jake never gave up till the end,” Matt McHugh said. “He fought till the end, he was smiling till the end.”

The McHugh’s are set to take on the Honolulu Marathon on a day of special significance.

Sunday would have been Jake’s 18th birthday.

It’ll be an emotional day for their entire family, emotions that they say will push them to the finish line.

“The Honolulu Marathon came up, and I’m not a runner. I feel like I don’t do enough for him to keep his memory alive, so I decided I’m going to run it,” Matt McHugh said.

“The only thing I picture of this marathon is how to get across the finish line, so I have that extra motivation. Jake’s going to carry me across the finish line, I’m going to fly across the finish line on his wings.”

If they’re flying on Jake’s wings, they’ll be dragon wings — as Jake was fond of the mythical beasts, along with being outside and of course running.

“Something Jake and I always did together, we would run the 5K at his school every year together and he was on cross country. I always imagined someday we would run a marathon together.” Jake’s mother Sandy said. “You know for Jake, what better way to celebrate his birthday than to see the world, see Honolulu through his eyes.”

Since his passing, the McHugh’s started Jake’s Dragon Foundation to raise funds for Pediatric cancer research.

They’ve also started another campaign for the marathon, an option to donate $18 in honor of Jake’s 18th birthday.

“One of the things about Hawaii is mahalo and gratitude, and we’re just grateful to be here and grateful to be in this beautiful place.”

The Honolulu Marathon is set to start at 5:00 a.m. on Sunday.

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