When the St. Jude Memphis to Peoria Run was initiated in 1982, it sounded like an impossible plan: a 465-mile journey with runners on the road around the clock to raise funds for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
But the event has grown steadily in the last 35 years, raising more than $45.6 million for St. Jude. The most recent run, which occurred July 27 – 30, raised more than $5 million for St. Jude and included 38 satellite runs.
To put those years of fundraising in perspective, $45.6 million could cover the cost of treatment for 107 children with the most common childhood cancer — acute lymphoblastic leukemia. But one statistic says it all: The number of former St. Jude patients who now participate in the Memphis to Peoria Run each year, said Peoria County Sheriff Mike McCoy, who co-founded the race with friend and fellow Peoria runner Gene Pratt.
“During a tour of St. Jude that first year the question was asked how long would it be before a St. Jude patient would be able to participate in the run,” McCoy said. “We were told ‘it will never happen.’ Now we are averaging about seven former patients running each year. That makes me smile.”
The group travels in two teams, with one running while the other sleeps, eats and keeps the chase vehicles gassed and moving down the road to pick up fellow runners.
“Each year I marvel at how such a diverse group of people all realize that raising dollars for St. Jude is important,” McCoy said.
Peoria is home to St. Jude’s first affiliate clinic, which opened in 1972, and that community has been a great source of support to St. Jude.
This year’s event drew 2,800 runners in total, including a record 200 for Memphis to Peoria. That continued level of involvement gives McCoy and other organizers great confidence that both the Memphis to Peoria event and running can contribute significantly to the St. Jude mission.
“The future is unlimited,” he said. “Runs like this throughout the country, getting more cities involved, creating awareness of the great work at St. Jude; that is our future.”