When Zach Meadows began teaching fifth grade at the beginning of the pandemic, the task might have seemed all uphill. He was masked, of course. As were the kids. How do you get to know someone new — let alone a classroom full of new people — from behind a mask and at a distance of 6 feet?
If you’ve been through surgeries and chemotherapy and radiation treatment for a brain tumor, as Zach had at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and his local hospital, you make the best of it. You share your story with gratitude.
“St. Jude opened my eyes as far as learning to care for everybody no matter the background,” he said. “I want them to feel loved, but I also want them to feel inspired, that they can make it.”
Zach’s story starts as a 7-year-old in 2002. That same year, Donnie Baldock laced up his running shoes for the very first St. Jude Memphis Marathon Weekend. He’s run every year since, including this year as we celebrate the 20th anniversary of the event.
Just as that first year wasn’t his last to run, neither was it the finish line for Donnie’s selflessness. When the call came for platelet donations at St. Jude, Donnie was there with a smile and 18 fellow runners ready to roll up their sleeves. He trains up to 300 runners per year to participate in the marathon weekend for St. Jude as part of the St. Jude Breakaway Running for a Cause team. They’ve raised well over $1 million.
And during the pandemic, when the event went virtual, Donnie made sure a 14-year-old St. Jude leukemia survivor was able to achieve his dream of running his first half marathon by securing the necessary permit for a police escort through his hometown and joining him to set the pace.
Thanks to supporters like Donnie and all of you, kids like Zach have the chance at life. The opportunity to grow up and impact others in their own unique way, like teaching math and grammar to fifth graders.
Zach’s dad said, “I think that experience Zach had at St. Jude has carried over in his school teaching. He wants to make sure no kid is left behind. He wants to make sure every kid gets the attention they deserve.”
St. Jude has committed $11.5 billion over the next six years to helping ensure kids around the globe get the treatment they need. That means more attention on difficult-to-treat cancers, like brain tumors and infant leukemia. More resources will go toward finding less toxic treatments so kids grow and learn with fewer cognitive effects.
That can happen only because of you and millions more supporters, including tens of thousands of participants over the past 20 years of marathons. It’s grown into our largest single day of fundraising, raising more than $100 million in total, but it’s so much more than that. It’s a time to come together, united, behind a single, lifesaving mission.
Twenty years ago, two people began their journeys. They represent thousands more leading lives of purpose and we’re so grateful to have them with us, and excited to see where the next 20 years takes us.