St. Jude Runners Depart, Prepare for Memphis Heat

By Anna Yee

August 2, 2011 Updated Aug 2, 2011 at 8:59 PM CDT

One hundred and 89 runners and 24 motor homes.

This was the scene at the Peoria St. Jude run office Tuesday morning.

After 30 years, the St. Jude Memphis-to-Peoria run is breaking records with its attendance and fundraising efforts.

Since its humble beginnings, the event has raised more than $11 million for cancer care and research.

"Time, effort and energy are going to the right place here," said Mike McCoy, the event co-founder. "The results are worth what we're doing."

Co-founder Mike McCoy says he never dreamed the run would gain this much momentum, but he and the others still take caution.

"It's really not an easy event," said McCoy. "The lack of sleep, most people don't train running at 2 or 3 o'clock in the morning in 104-106 degree heat."

The predicted 116 degree Memphis heat index isn't holding anyone back.

"The heat, we'll get through," said Dawn Tanner, a runner and cancer survivor. "Nothing's worse than what the patients go through, and so it kind of reminds us, you know, as we're dripping sweat and hitting the pavement, we remember that we're doing it for the kids."

It's that thought that keeps another cancer survivor Amy Jones in the race.

"I'm now a mom," said Jones, a14-year runner. "So, I think about my son and the fact that, hopefully, he'll never have to go through anything, but if he does, there's this great place."

Accoring to www.stjude.org, the St. Jude Children's Research Hospital treats nearly 6,000 patients each year.

Its protocols have helped push childhood cancer survival rates, from less than 20% when the hospital opened in 1962, to up to 94% percent today.

The numbers are reflected in the number of supporters.

This year, they're filling two buses just to cheer on the runners in Memphis.

Harry and Margaret Hawcroft are from Florida.

They're supporting survivors like their grandson Marcus Watson.

"Oh, there's nothing that would take us away from this," Margaret Hawcroft. "This means so much. St. Jude is just a wonderful place, and we're very grateful for a second chance for our grandson."

As the caravan takes off for the 465 mile trip, it'll return Saturday just in time for the St. Jude Telethon.

"There's no dry eyes when those guys come in," said Harry Hawcroft. "It's such a great effort."

A great effort that's certainly come a long way.

The telethon will air live on WEEK-TV and WHOI-TV.

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