Special to Tatler by Pooja Talati with updated reporting by Lily Smith
Some might find it a little strange that a hospital is named after the patron saint of hopeless causes. However, the enthusiastic runners preparing to line up in front of the FedEx Forum in downtown Memphis on Dec. 1 are not concerned about this apparent contradiction. Thousands of people are currently training to run in the 5k, 10k, half-marathon or marathon, all hosted by St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
As described in its mission statement, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital works to cure, prevent and understand pediatric cancer and other deadly diseases. According to the St. Jude website, its research is focused on learning about the “molecular, genetic and chemical bases” of these diseases and finding cures based on the knowledge obtained. Specifically, St. Jude researches “cancers, some acquired and inherited immunodeficiencies, sickle cell disease, infectious diseases and genetic disorders.”
The annual race day marks the “single largest one-day fundraising event for St. Jude.” In fact, the St. Jude marathon is one of the only marathons around the world to be hosted by a charity. As comedian, singer, actor, producer and St. Jude founder Danny Thomas believed, “no child is denied treatment [at St. Jude] based on race, religion or a family's ability to pay.” The hospital believes that a patient and his or her family should “never receive a bill from St. Jude for treatment, travel, housing or food — because all a family should worry about is helping their child live.”
While runners from all over come to participate in the various races, 50 runners in the St. Mary’s community are eager to take part as well. Having “always thought it was really cool when so many people signed up to run the half,” high school senior Arabella McGowan said, “This year, I was determined to do it! I’m so excited for race day, and I know that it will be a really rewarding experience.”
“I think it’ll be a character builder, and I’m excited for training!” Abbie Ryan, another senior, is running the St. Jude half marathon to challenge herself in new ways. “If I can do this, then I can get through any challenges in college,” she said.
Holly Hensarling, SMS history teacher and cross country coach, is leading the SMS team and helping them train. They have met every Saturday since June to run the long training runs together. “We had our last long training run this past Saturday, and now we start to taper off in preparation for the race,” Hensarling said. “Training has been great, and I am proud of all of the runners.”
Others have previously attended the race to cheer on loved ones and after seeing the atmosphere on race day, have decided to participate this year. Last year, senior Kennedy Hamblen stood on the sidelines surround by a group from her school, doughnuts and cider. She attended to cheer on her mom. “That’s part of the reason I’m doing it this year,” she said. “My mom can train with me.”
Sophie Morrow, supporter of her fellow classmates that are running, put it best. Marathon spots fill up quickly because the work St. Jude does is amazing. “It not only provides a sense of family but also allows kids to heal,” she says. “Families that have a child with cancer can worry about their child healing and not about the financial cost and responsibility.”
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