The 6,000 people who live in Chillicothe, Illinois, are a powerhouse when it comes to raising funds and awareness for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, raising more than $1.55 million for St. Jude since 2005.
The small community has felt the impact of childhood cancer over the past 30 years, with nine children having been diagnosed with cancer. Knowing what families in their community faced inspired residents to support the hospital through St. Jude Runs, which organizes the annual St. Jude Memphis to Peoria Run fundraiser. They started the Chillicothe to Peoria Run, one of 38 satellite runs, in 2005.
In each of the last two years, the community has raised more than $320,000 through the run and a variety of other fundraising activities, including the Brad Wallin Memorial Baseball Tournament. This year they have a goal of raising more than $345,000 for St. Jude.
“Chillicothe has had this constant churn of kids with cancer,” said Rick Lingenfelter, Chillicothe’s run coordinator. “Just when you think that maybe it is going to wane, another child has gotten cancer. So it’s not like we can say we raised the funds; we did it; we’re done. It keeps coming up. That’s a motivator.”
The group, which started with 11 runners, has fielded 120 runners each of the last two years. In addition to seeking pledges from family and friends for the run, they host numerous fundraisers, such as an American Girl® Tea Party™, a dueling-pianos night and a 1980s-themed adult prom. The annual youth baseball tournament, started by a St. Jude patient family, drew 261 teams from all over the Midwest in 2015.
“I would love to know in our population of 6,000 people, how many of the adult wage-earners donate to St. Jude, because I have a feeling it is a lot of people,” Lingenfelter said.
The lifesaving mission of St. Jude has resonated in Chillicothe, and its residents know that families never receive a bill from St. Jude for treatment, travel, housing or food — because all a family should worry about is helping their child live.
“Everyone knows about, and is very clear of, the mission of St. Jude because they see it lived out here every day.”