Upcoming Keefe Family Polar Plunge to benefit family of popular teen diagnosed with glioblastoma

(Courtesy photo) Eddie McMahon Jr., chosen the benefactor of this year's Keefe Family Polar Plunge, with his parents, Eddie Sr. and Vicky, at Fenway Park in August during the Red Sox and WEEI annual Jimmy Fund drive.

SEABROOK – Ray Keefe, the Hollis resident whose family organizes an annual polar plunge to benefit a person or family facing hardship due to illness or other setbacks, said recently that a two-hour meeting last September with the prospective benefactors of next month’s 15th annual plunge more than convinced Keefe that “this family … is out in full force ready to take on this demon … .”

That demon is glioblastoma, a complex, aggressive type of cancer that typically occurs in the brain but can also occur in the spinal cord.

Eddie McMahon Jr., 17, was diagnosed with glioblastoma in June in Florida, where he and his family – brother Colby and parents Eddie Sr. and Vicky McMahon – had been living for about a year.

(See information box for details on the plunge and ways to donate to the cause).

Well-known in the Greater Lowell community, the McMahons were an easy choice as this year’s benefactor, Keefe said, adding that the selection and organization committee – Cookie Finn, Claudette Flynn, Sandy Grimes, Shaun Cremin, Billy Finn and Shawn Mulligan – “couldnít be more pumped to help Eddie Jr. and his family out.”

It was just after Eddie Jr. was a guest on WEEI, the radio voice of the Red Sox, during the Sox’ annual end-of-August Jimmy Fund drive that he was chosen this year’s plunge benefactor – “no nomination necessary,” Keefe said.

Just a week or two later, Keefe arrived at the McMahon residence for what turned out to be an “extremely frank,” two-hour conversation, which also featured “some laughs, and a few tears (from me)” Keefe said.

Eddie McMahon Sr. greeted Keefe at the door. “I wish you were here for another reason, Ray, but you’re not,” he remembers Eddie Sr. saying.

At first, the McMahons began preparing to take on Eddie Jr.’s battle privately, and “felt that they could do so,” Keefe said. “But it quickly became something out of their hands … people started reaching out to them, and they knew they had to accept help.”

That help “came in all forms: phone calls, text messages, food deliveries and other sorts of gifts … in hopes of making their lives easier as they focus on Eddie Jr.’s treatments.

The roots of today’s version of the event, named the Keefe Family Polar Plunge, go back to 2008, when the Keefe family lost a close family friend, Mark Frattaroli, a teenager who was killed in a car crash. Keefe said at the time that his family wanted to organize a fundraiser to assist the teen’s family as they dealt with their loss.

Mark Frattaroli and Keefe’s son, Tanner, were close friends who attended, and played football for, separate schools – Tanner at The Groton School and Mark at Lawrence Academy. The two had played against each other earlier on the day on which the fatal crash occurred.

The inaugural plunge, held in February 2009, raised sufficient funds to create a scholarship fund for Lawrence Academy in Mark Frattaroli’s name.

Each year since, the Keefe family and their team of volunteers have selected “a deserving cause to support, while keeping the legacy of Mark Frattaroli alive,” Ray Keefe said at the time.

As for the McMahons, “the family knows that Eddie Jr. is in for a monumental battle,” Keefe said. “Eddie Jr. does as well.”

Dean Shalhoup may be reached at 594-1256 or dshalhoup@nashuatelegraph.com.