500 guests turn out to help Jake Kennedy mark his 65th birthday

BOSTON — More than 500 guests turned out Saturday night for the surprise 65th birthday party for Jake Kennedy, who with his wife, Sparky, founded the annual Christmas in the City. Saturday’s party was held at the Seaport Hotel.

The night also served as a fundraiser for the Jake Kennedy ALS Fund, which has a goal of raising $1 million for ALS research. Jake was diagnosed with ALS and it is not the first time the Kennedy family has faced this fatal disease. Jake’s brother Richard, who most everyone calls Ratt, and with whom Jake founded Kennedy Brothers Physical Therapy in 1982, also has the disease. Their father, Chris Kennedy, was a longtime dean of students at Northeastern University, died in 1989, about a year after he was diagnosed with ALS. And Jimmy, Chris’s youngest son, also died from the disease when he was just 31 years old.

Ratt Kennedy has served as president of The Angel Fund for ALS Research, which raises money
to support the work of Dr. Robert H. Brown Jr., one of the world’s leading ALS specialists, at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester. Jake and Sparky’s son Zack is a neuroscientist at the UMass Medical School and has dedicated himself to finding a cure for the disease.

“It is an especially cruel condition that can have a powerful genetic component, and has been visited upon the Kennedy family with unfathomable frequency,” Kevin Cullen wrote in his Boston Globe column last month. For more, click here.

Among those on hand Saturday night were Governor Charlie Baker and Boston Mayor Marty Walsh. WBZ anchor Lisa Hughes was there and the night’s emcee was Michael Felger of NBC Sports Boston.

Jake and his wife, Sparky, started Christmas in the City in 1989 to help local families in need during the holidays. Just this past December, volunteers served more than 6,000 people from dozens of homeless shelters at the 31st Christmas in the City, held at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center.

Longtime Christmas in the City volunteers Lynne and Gary Smith gave Jake a superhero cape that says “The Luckiest Man Alive” on the back.

All photos by Bill Brett

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