Race #48 – Running to Fight Childhood Cancer

St. Jude August Miles Challenge: T-Shirt Distribution with Scott

Race #48: St. Jude August Miles Challenge

The Cause: St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital

My running friend Scott honestly doesn’t know how much money he and his family have raised for St. Jude over the years. He’s lost track. Actually, he’s never really kept track. And he’s probably too humble to even try to zero in on a dollar amount. And it’s just as well because people like Scott are priceless.

He’s been organzing Harrisburg’s St. Jude 5K for a while (I ran it two years ago with friends), along with countless other fundraising events, for 20-25 years. For 2020, he and his wife Kat were fundraising money that would have donated to St. Jude in December, at the time of the St. Jude Memphis Marathon. However, they are now deferred until next year’s marathon.

As a way to keep area runners, as well as his fundraising, “on track,” Scott organized this month-long miles challenge for each of us to log 100 miles. About 100 Harrisburg-area runners participated, and it was fun to see all of our mileage accumulate, individually and collectively, in a Google spreadsheet over the month. All told, we raised $1,800 and ran about 8,700 miles!

We each chipped in $$ and Scott provided T-shirts, along with random weekly prizes donated by area businesses. I was surprised to rack up 120 miles in August, mainly because I was so focused on “mile training” for the first two weeks, that I didn’t have many long runs, and they weren’t as long as usual! I increased my mileage the latter part of the month.

I asked Scott what motivated him to get involved with St. Jude, and he said his family was blessed with good health, and he “wanted to pay it forward” by helping others. His sons, now grown, helped fundraise as they grew up. Events like bowling fundraisers were intertwined with their childhood.

I met Scott through Fleet Feet Mechanicsburg’s Running Club a few years ago. I would describe Scott as one of those people who’s always positive and uplifting. And I can’t think about Scott without thinking about his sense of humor. For example, he runs in the funniest leprechaun costume for Harrisburg’s Lucky Charm 10K for St. Patrick’s Day. It brings a smile to my face, just visualizing him.

Positive people doing good: They’re underrated.

Speaking of which… Here are a few facts about St. Jude that you might not realize:

  • St. Jude is one of the largest pediatric cancer hospitals in the world, and they treat 8,500 children annually.
  • Families never receive a bill from St. Jude for their children’s care and treatment–or housing, travel and food during their stays.
  • Pediatric cancer treaments can span three years or more and cost an average of $425,000.
  • Numerous research projects are underway at St. Jude including the Pediatric Cancer Genome Project.

But St. Jude doesn’t “just” help children. And here’s how I know: My dear mother-in-law has a heart monitor from St. Jude. We say she is our family’s “cat with nine lives.” She has survived a multitude of health issues over the years and we love her dearly. Every time I run a race, she reminds me to run for her, too, since she cannot. And I always say, “Always.”

As I ran throughout the month, I spent a lot of time thinking about children. It’s hard enough “adulting” through this pandemic, let alone trying to navigate what should be happy childhood days as a kid. Throughout August and continuing into September, school years are restarting with mixed success. As the mother of two current college students, my stomach is in knots most days.

Are we making the right decisions? As parents, as school administrators, as a society? Are our kids safe? Are school officials guided by sound medical advice? Or are they falling for faulty “information?” Acting out of financial motives to keep their schools afloat? Are we politicizing school plans and openings?

It’s a painful, heartbreaking time for athletes of all levels right now, including high school and college athletes. I’m speaking as the mother of a college soccer player. Hopes and dreams, sweat and tears, practice and more practice for years, are all in the balance. But so is their health. Hearing the public debates and politicization associated with high school or college football in particular is disturbing.

How dare we as a society put children and their health and wellbeing in the middle. God bless teachers. God bless all parents, juggling work and uncertain futures for their kids’ schooling. God bless all parents shifting into homeschool routines. These are a lot of the thoughts that powered my August runs.

During this strange time, as we live through a pandemic, isn’t health priority number one? If we didn’t already value our health, our medical professionals, our researchers, our healthcare workers… we should now.

Running with the St. Jude bracelet ❤

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