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“I wanted to keep running, but to run for something much bigger than myself,” Kyllian Warman says.

A Hero Among Us

One young woman turns tragedy into triumph, saving lives while honoring her dad’s memory.

With each footstep, Kyllian Warman honors her father while helping save children’s lives.

Kyllian Warman of New Jersey has transformed the challenges in her life into an opportunity to be a hero for the children of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

The 20-year-old college student has run 12 full marathons since April 2013, raising more than $60,000 through the St. Jude Heroes program. As a result, she was recognized with the Heroes Among Us Award during the 2014 St. Jude Memphis Marathon Weekend.

She began running as a way to deal with tragedy in her own family. When she was a high school freshman, her father, Rick, was found to have colon and liver cancer. Always an athlete, Kyllian added running track as a form of therapy, becoming successful in the sport.

In 2012, her father’s condition worsened. Kyllian decided to run 2,012 miles that year—reaching that goal by making her daily 16-mile roundtrip school commute on foot. The long runs helped her process her feelings.

“I just needed to clear my head,” she explains.

Her father died the day of Kyllian’s high school graduation, holding her hand after she returned home from the ceremony.

“I wanted to keep running, but to run for something much bigger than myself,” Kyllian says. “I wanted to do it to benefit cancer research.” 

Everyone should be a hero once in their life.

Kyllian found the St. Jude Heroes program, which allows runners and walkers to raise funds by seeking pledges for participation in endurance events.

St. Jude is the sole beneficiary of the St. Jude Memphis Marathon Weekend and the St. Jude Country Music Marathon in Nashville, Tennessee. Charity athletes can also raise funds as St. Jude Heroes by taking part in other marathons and half marathons nationwide. Fundraising through the program has grown from $2.3 million in 2008 to $11.9 million in 2014.

A year after her father died, Kyllian ran her first marathon in Nashville. The following year, she was the top St. Jude Hero fundraiser for that event, bringing in $25,000—while working and attending college full time.

Kyllian regularly speaks about St. Jude at events in her New Jersey hometown. After one such talk, a prominent businessman introduced himself and said he was going to write a $10,000 check for St. Jude.

“I fell to my knees and started crying,” she says. “I realized just how big the support had grown.”

Kyllian says the St. Jude Heroes program appeals to so many people because it is positive on every level.

“Who doesn’t want to get excited about how good their life is and who doesn’t want to help these kids have a better life?” she says. “For me, the Heroes program has really transformed everything. Everyone should be a hero once in their life.”

Abridged from Promise, Spring 2015

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