UPDATED 05/01/2019: Kent Stoneking lost his leg after a motorcycle accident in 2011. But what could have been a devastating setback for the father of three didn't stop him from challenging himself. He was walking less than 30 days after receiving his prosthetic limb. He was running less than 90 days after that.
Not long after Kent started running, his brother suggested they both participate in the next St. Jude Memphis Marathon Weekend. Though initially hesitant, Kent decided to run the full marathon that December.
St. Jude was already familiar to Kent; he did a 30-day rotation in the St. Jude pharmacy when he was in pharmacy school. The experience stayed with him and inspired him to take his marathon journey one step further: he chose to not only run, but also to fundraise as a St. Jude Hero® while he trained.
As a Hero, the funds Kent raised would help St. Jude kids with cancer and other life-threatening diseases. For him, the combination of running and fundraising brought the best of both worlds, allowing him to do something healing for himself and for others at the same time.
Impressed by the effort of Kent and his brother, their father registered the following year, running the half marathon and fundraising as a St. Jude Hero four years in a row (coming in eighth in his age group one year!). Kent's son has also run, and in 2018, Kent's daughter ran the full marathon, and his niece ran the 5K. Kent himself ran the half marathon with his brother in 2018 and fundraised yet again as a St. Jude Hero. For the Stoneking family, event weekend has become a tradition of coming together to cross the finish line.
Each year on race weekend, a St. Jude Hero is recognized with the Hero Among Us award for going the extra mile to support children battling cancer and other life-threatening diseases. In 2018, ALSAC President and CEO Richard Shadyac Jr. surprised Kent two days before the race by recognizing him as that year's recipient, and invited two special guests to present him with the award: St. Jude patient Kael and his mom Ashley, who have been Kent's inspiration for years.
Kent and Kael, both amputees on the same leg, first met more than four years ago when Kael’s mom saw Kent at the St. Jude Memphis Marathon Weekend finish line. She wanted to show Kael that nothing is impossible, even with an amputation.
“Seeing Kael after four years was a surprise I never expected,” said Kent. “Running a marathon is hard work, but Kael has given me the inspiration to keep running the extra mile to support St. Jude and its lifesaving mission.”
“Kent Stoneking is the epitome of a hero to St. Jude patients like Kael,” said Shadyac. “Watching their reunion makes the true spirit of this weekend come to life, and I couldn’t be more honored to recognize Kent with the Hero Among Us award.”
Kent acknowledges he still has challenges, but he's found strength in helping give every child a fighting chance and inspiring others to do the same along the way. “St. Jude has provided families with a context to dream the impossible,” he said, and he won’t stop doing everything in his power to support them.