An incredible tradition of community support for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital reached historic levels this year when the St. Jude Memphis to Peoria Run raised more than $1 million for the first time since it began 33 years ago.
The run, which took place from July 30 to August 2, put 170 runners on a grueling 465-mile journey to help raise money for kids fighting cancer and other deadly diseases at St. Jude. Peoria is also home to St. Jude’s first affiliate clinic, which opened in 1972, and the St. Jude Memphis to Peoria Run was initiated in 1982 by Peoria County Sheriff Michael D. McCoy and Gene Pratt to raise funds for St. Jude.
“We believe that the vast dollars we raise in central Illinois are going to the absolute best place for the research and treatment of childhood cancer,” McCoy said. “St. Jude has continually demonstrated that these dollars are saving kids’ lives on a daily basis. We will continue this event for as long as necessary to help provide the needed funds to assist Rick Shadyac and Dr. Downing in doing their tremendous work." Shadyac is CEO of ALSAC, the fundraising and awareness organization of St. Jude, and James R. Downing, MD, is president and chief executive officer of St. Jude.
The original run has inspired an additional 34 satellite runs from other cities — mostly in Illinois — to Peoria. This year, the satellite runs brought the total to 2,200 runners from cities including Champaign/Urbana, Chicago and Canton. The runs culminate in the St. Jude Telethon in Peoria, and all 35 St. Jude Runs raised $4.1 million for the kids of St. Jude this year, bringing the 33-year total to nearly $36 million.
For some Peoria residents, the St. Jude Memphis to Peoria Run has become a family tradition. The Dickersons of East Peoria, Illinois, take a week of vacation every year to participate.
Donna Dickerson got involved in the run 19 years ago in honor of the child of a friend who fought cancer at St. Jude. Her husband, Tom, joined the run nine years ago. And she hopes that some year soon, their 14-year-old son Egan will join them to make the family tradition complete.
“After the first year coming here, I never looked at my son the same again,” Tom said.
Donna said she runs “for the kids and because I can. It’s just giving back. It’s a great thing to do for the community and it is to be a good example for our son."