The Riskin Family
RF Race for Research: Boston 5K Walk/Run 2012
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The MMRF is proud to honor sisters Susan Riskin and Karen Orzechowski as 2012 recipients of the Spirit of Hope Award, given at every MMRF Race for Research 5K event to individuals who inspire hope with their perseverance in overcoming personal obstacles such as a cancer diagnosis.
The Riskins’ Story:
Posted: August, 2012
Susan Riskin and Karen Riskin Orzechowski have been a strong presence at the MMRF Race for Research: Boston 5k Walk/Run every year since 2004. Their father, Jeff Riskin, lost his battle with multiple myeloma in May of 2009 but left a legacy with a family that continues to forge on. “It was a no brainer, really. He would be the first to tell us to keep going, to keep fighting, to make sure that there will one day be a cure,” said Susan. To the Riskins, despite their loss, the event is not a sad occasion but a hopeful one. They credit the work of the MMRF with allowing Jeff to enjoy a great quality of life during the five years he lived with the disease, allowing him to experience everything from visiting friends and family and traveling around the world to welcoming two precious grandchildren.
Jeff was a spirited presence at the Boston event, leading a team of friends and family called “Jeff’s Juggernauts” to be a top annual fundraiser. While Susan and Karen spearhead some of the planning, they both state that their mother Anne is really the heart of the team. Anne’s sister Linnie and her family, Jeff’s sister and brother-in-law, Amy and Dale and Karen’s in-laws attend the event every year without fail. Despite a move across the country to San Francisco this past spring, Susan will be flying in for the 2012 event. The event has come to serve as a sort of family reunion, which Karen likens to a Thanksgiving celebration. “The MMRF is like an extension of our family. We are so grateful for their support and my father had such a real relationship with this organization that it has become natural for all of us,” said Karen.
The fact that Jeff’s first cousin Len Fleischer was also diagnosed with multiple myeloma in 2003, nine months before Jeff’s diagnosis, only lends to the family’s sense of urgency in supporting the MMRF. Len will be making a trip down from New Hampshire to join the event again this September. Beyond the Race for Research event, the family has supported the MMRF in a multitude of ways over the years. Susan is a member of the MMRF Endurance Events PowerTeam and ran the Boston Marathon for the MMRF in 2008, the Empire State Building Run-Up Powered by the MMRF in 2011, and joined the team for the Virgin London Marathon in the summer of 2012. She is a regular volunteer at other MMRF PowerTeam events, and both Susan and Karen have attended MMRF Signature events like the Fall Gala and Laugh for Life: New York. Karen’s husband Daren Orzechowski and his firm, White and Case LLP, do pro bono legal work for the MMRF, helping with various intellectual property matters.
Susan and Karen fondly remember their dad Jeff, an electrical engineer, as first and foremost a family man who was home for dinner every night or calling home every day during his international business travels. Jeff and Anne dedicated weekends and vacations to the family; from game nights to Sunday football to trips away, the girls never doubted that their parents valued spending time with them. Interestingly, both Susan and Karen both remain convinced to this day that they were personally their father’s “favorite” daughter.
Jeff was also a Boston Red Sox fan. When his team won the world series in 2004, after his diagnosis, he proudly bought and wore a Red Sox t-shirt proclaiming “Now I can die in peace.” The women continue to chuckle over this today, and clearly believe it to be at least partially true. Then they hasten to remind that this is not just about their father. They will all truly be at peace when no one else has to lose a family member to multiple myeloma. The MMRF is proud to recognize Susan and Karen for their steadfast dedication to this shared objective.