Buncrana’s Mark is an Irish hero in his hometown of Boston

Buncrana man Mark Porter (left), pictured at this year's Boston Marathon with Sean (Soupie) Campbell from Rosemount in Derry.
Buncrana man Mark Porter (left), pictured at this year's Boston Marathon with Sean (Soupie) Campbell from Rosemount in Derry.

A Buncrana charity crusader has been honoured as an “Irish Hero” in his other hometown of Boston.

Mark Porter was presented with the “Irish Heroes of New England” award at a special ceremony on Wednesday night in recognition of his dedication to fundraising for cancer charities and the community.

Mark, who emigrated from Inishowen 20 years ago, was himself diagnosed with non-Hodgkins Lymphoma in 2005.

After successfully beating the disease, Mark vowed to help individuals and families who found themselves in the same situation.

He has since raised thousands of dollars for the Dana Farber Institute, where he was treated and the Children’s Hospital in Boston.

The father-of-three has also jointly founded the Let’s Stop Cancer Foundation, which provides support for individuals and families as they are undergoing cancer treatment.

Speaking to the Journal, modest Mark joked the award was a “case of mistaken identity.”

He also told how he wants to help others as he firmly believes someone was responsible for his cure and ensuring his children still have their father.

He said while he cannot thank that person, he can “pay it forward.”

“I was a husband and father with three young children,” he said.

“I was cured and I’m here with them and I don’t know who or what helped me. I was never able to thank anyone for it. So many people raised money to ensure we were helped and because of research I got my cure.

“The way I look at it is, someone did that for me. I’m now a number of years down the road. If I can do the same to help one other person then that’s my way of saying thanks.”

Over the past number of years, Mark has been involved in a number of fundraisers. These included running the Boston Marathon nine times and organising an annual charity boxing event called ‘Battle at the Bay.’

However, he is keen to credit many others, who have helped him in his efforts over the years, raising over $300,000 dollars in the process.

The majority of this money went to the hospitals and then last year, Mark and his friend Pete Bincewicz decided to take a different approach.

They saw the need for active support while a person was undergoing treatment and the foundation was born.

Mark explains: “The work the hospitals do are absolutely fantastic and we continue to support them. But, we saw and decided that individual people need money too. If you have a young, child sick, you have to take off work. You should be focused on that child, not on how you’re going to pay your mortgage or your car insurance. That’s what the foundation is about - providing that support when it’s needed.

“Since we started up last July, we’ve helped 15 families and donated $40,000.

“What we do could be something as simple as maybe sending a child in the family to camp to give them a wee break.”

He added: “We had a mother who had to drive 140 miles to get therapy for her sick child. She didn’t have the money for petrol. You hear things like that and you wonder what kind of world we’re living in. The foundation is going well and helping people. But unfortunately, our success is built on other people’s misery.”

Mark’s “Irish Hero” award was presented to him on Wednesday night by the Irish Emigrant newspaper in partnership with IrishCentral.com and Irish America magazine at a ceremony in Boston. It was attended by 200 guests and Irish Consul General Brendan O’Caollai and former Boston Mayor Ray Flynn.

Also in the audience was Mark’s children, his wife Geraldine, mother Jeannie and sister Jennifer Hegarty, who had both flown over from Buncrana.

Six men and women were honoured on the night, including Edward Walsh and Michael Kennedy, two firefighters who lost their lives on duty earlier this year.

Kate O’Halloran, who was born without limbs was honoured for her determination in the face of physical challenges. Police officer James Flanagan, who saved a man from a burning vehicle was also honoured, as was John Dunleavy, who works as a member of the self advocate advisory Council of Massachusetts Down Syndrome Congress.

Mark said he was “surprised” to find himself among the honorees and was also keen to credit all those who have raised money alongside him over the years.

He said: “You do it because you can. Somebody does it for you. I know myself, when I needed it, that help was there - somebody was there, You don’t need anyone telling you how great you are. I was there and I know what it was like. But it was nice they thought of me. I have so many people helping me, at least 10 - 15 each year. They have to be credited as well.”