For Roland Woodson, being a St. Jude Hero means being a role model for his three boys and his students. The educator and father from Memphis is participating in the 2018 St. Jude Memphis Marathon Weekend for the fifth time this year, after raising $12,000 with his team, Black Men Run, for children battling cancer and other life-threatening diseases in 2017.
Cancer is no stranger to Woodson. Not only has cancer impacted his family directly, it also gave him a personal connection to St. Jude when his friend’s son became a St. Jude patient. He's been in remission for almost three years now.
“St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital is the epitome of hope,” said Woodson, who is running the half marathon in December. “St. Jude restores hope, not only to its patients, but to its families as well. It represents the humanity I hope to see in the world.”
Woodson’s fitness journey started like many others — in an effort to live a healthier life. He said he made a decision to change the way he was living for his sons.
“That decision has provided me a new resurgence of not only physical fitness, but also mental fitness,” he said. “My goal is to play catch with my grandchildren one day, so I have to ensure that I’m fit.”
The same decision also led him to run as a St. Jude Hero. Black Men Run has a goal to raise $5,000 for the lifesaving mission of St. Jude this year — but Woodson says he's confident his team will reach above and beyond that goal.
“I’m committed to running, and more importantly fundraising, for St. Jude because of the amazing care and world-class service that it provides its patients and families,” Woodson said. “I want to model the type of leadership that I aspire to see in my sons. Our youth hold the key to a better future, and they give me hope.”
Families at St. Jude never receive a bill for treatment, travel, housing or food — because all a family should worry about is helping their child live.
“When I cross the finish line I think about my sons, my training and my accomplishments,” he said. “But I also think about the patients at St. Jude. Ultimately, I feel hopeful.”