St. Jude Runners Head For Memphis

By Maggie Vespa

August 3, 2010 Updated Aug 3, 2010 at 9:11 PM CDT

They are the images we've come to know so well over the last three decades.

People taking time away from their jobs, their families, their lives to endure miles upon miles of seemingly endless highway, all to help kids from across the country win their battle against cancer.

And as the sun slowly rises on year 29 of the St. Jude Memphis to Peoria Run, organizers say people's passion for this cause seems to be stronger than ever.

"The support of the community plus, you know, the people that do this event has made it just huge," said Peoria Sheriff and St. Jude Run co-founder Mike McCoy.

This year's run is one for the record books.

174 runners, ten more than last year, fill 21 trailers, with two more joining on the ride down to Memphis.

There, they'll tour the St. Jude Children's Research Hospital before beginning the long trek back to Peoria for this year's St. Jude Telethon.

Organizers say they hope to top last year's fundraising record of
$950,000 from this run alone.

And as everyone gathered at Peoria's St. Jude headquarters off Sheridan Road Tuesday morning, the emotion began pouring out, especially for those with first-hand knowledge of the gift St. Jude has to give.

"I became a patient in 1988, diagnosed with Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia, or A.L.L.," said Amy Jones.

Jones was a St. Jude patient for over four years.

Doctor's original prognoses for the then 10 year-old were grim, but today, Amy is 32 years old, cancer-free and the mother of a two year-old son.

She's also a St. Jude runner, which she says is the least she could do for an organization that healed her in more ways than one.

"It's so much more than the physical. It's the emotional. It's the mental. It's just that hug around you that you can totally feel that really just helps you get through everything," she said.

Christian Harr agrees.

At the age of 19, he is two years into his own battle with Leukemia.

Christian says he's been to St. Jude's Memphis hospital dozens of times and says even calling it a hospital seems wrong.

"when you get down there, everybody is just like one big family. It doesn't seem like hospital staff or anything," said Harr.

He kept that feeling in mind, he says, when he designed the t-shirts for this year's run.

Christian is headed back to Memphis for more treatments in a few weeks, and says he's doing well.

And as people got ready to pack up and head out, they say it's kids and cases like his that keep them running.

"They understand the money goes where it should go, to the treatment, and the care, and the cure of kids with cancer, and I think that's what keeps everyone together," said McCoy.

And it seems they'll stay together until the battle against childhood cancer is won for good.