Adam Cruthirds stepped onto a podium one sunny June day four years ago and made a pledge that might have sounded audacious, even outlandish, to anyone who hadn’t met the young cancer patient or gauged his determination.
“Adam’s Army is about to go nationwide, or maybe international,” the then-17-year-old told a crowd assembled in front of the headquarters of ALSAC, the fundraising and awareness organization for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
Adam’s Army, the alliterative moniker he gave to the group of family and friends raising money for St. Jude, indeed launched an offensive. Teams participating in the St. Jude Walk/Run and St. Jude Memphis Marathon races that first year collected some $140,000, far surpassing the initial goal of $100,000 Adam had announced.
Adam and his supporters — active across the U.S. and in other continents — continued their fundraising. Four years later, they are poised to attain an even more amazing goal: $1 million. With the achievement, St. Jude will name a place on campus in honor of Adam’s Army.
Now 21 and heading into his senior year of college, Adam plans to complete his first full marathon during the St. Jude Memphis Marathon Weekend this December, having already participated in a slate of races and events earlier in the year.
As big a challenge as a marathon might seem, Adam has overcome plenty of other difficult trials since he was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia in 2014.
Allergic to one of the main chemotherapy agents, he endured an especially difficult treatment regimen. The setbacks along the way included septic shock, temporary delirium and surgery to rebuild his hips after they were ravaged by treatment-induced avascular necrosis.
His treatment, which ended in 2017, cost more than $3 million, he says. But like all other St. Jude families, the Cruthirds never received a bill from the hospital.
“I know what I want to do in my life. I want to give back,” he says.
Adam’s mom, Connie Cruthirds, remembers watching him complete his first half marathon in 2015, linked arm-in-arm with supporters, despite failing hips and the effects of the chemotherapy he had received only hours earlier.
“It was that same determination,” she says, “that got him through all of the treatment.”
From Promise, Summer 2019