They are running the Marathon for Sean Murphy – and along the way to beat back head/neck cancer

Every April tens of thousands of runners converge on the city for the Boston Marathon. And all have their own stories of how they came to face this famed 26-plus mile challenge.

For Paula Murphy, who grew up in Dorchester, running in the Boston Marathon this year has a significant meaning as well as a mission. She will run in honor of her late husband, Sean, and to raise awareness and funds for research on head and neck cancer.

Sean, originally from the St. Mark’s neighborhood of Dorchester, passed away last March from laryngeal cancer at the age of 50. "He is really deeply missed," said Murphy, who lives in Quincy with their three daughters, Jordan, 20, Julia 15, and Emma, 14. "I want to see the day when there will be a cure for this disease."

And for those who want to support Paula and her friends Donnalee Guerin and Jim McLoughney, who will make up "Team Sean" in the marathon, there is a special fundraising and remembrance event set for this Saturday at the McKeon Post in Dorchester.

The team, which will run as part of Team Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, where Sean was treated, needs to collectively raise a minimum of $10,500 to receive official charity numbers and participate in the marathon.

The fundraiser, to be held from 7 p.m. to midnight, will feature a D.J., raffles, door prize, and silent auction. The event will be a night of remembrance for Sean, marking the one-year anniversary of his death as well as bein a fundraiser for research.

The proceeds that the runners will raise from the marathon will be donated to Mass. Eye and Ear for head and neck cancer research. "If just one person can be helped, then I’ve accomplished what I wanted," Murphy said.

Head and neck cancers make up from three percent to five percent of all cancers, according to the National Cancer Institute. And more research is needed.

Sean had experienced intermittent hoarseness in the throat over a period of time and had attributed it to a cold or allergies, Murphy said. When the hoarseness became more frequent, and he experienced some throat pain, several medical procedures revealed nothing, but then he came home from work one day having trouble breathing, Murphy said.

On June 15, 2008, he received the diagnosis of laryngeal cancer. Everyone was shocked, she said. "He was extremely healthy. He was a runner, like me. He didn’t smoke and there was no family history. The tumor was hidden behind his larynx." And the cancer had by then spread to his lungs. He died nine months later.

Last year, Murphy and Guerin ran the Boston Marathon with Team Mass Eye and Ear and raised money for research. "This year we decided to do the same thing. We belong to the L Street Running Club. Our friend Jim McLoughney said he would join us and now we have a team of three," Murphy said.

Sean, who was an inspector for the MBTA, attended St. Mark’s School in Dorchester and Christopher Columbus High School. Paula grew up in the St. Gregory’s neighborhood. They knew each other for many years and moved to Quincy after their marriage.

For Paula and her family, life has changed. But she takes things a day at a time. "I thank God that they [her daughters] are the age that they are. Sean knew them. He was able to shape them. And they are wonderful kids," she said.

Tickets are $10 and can be purchased at the door. If people are unable to attend the event but would like to support Team Sean, they may make a check payable to Team Mass Eye & Ear/Team Sean and mail it to: Donnalee Guerin, 12 Moreland Road, Quincy, Mass. 02169. Donors may also donate online at firstgiving.com/teamsean2010.