St. Jude Marathon Heroes adjust and prepare for virtual fundraiser

Updated: Dec. 3, 2020 at 10:46 PM CST
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - You’d think with the pandemic and the upcoming St. Jude Memphis Marathon weekend in “virtual mode”– many runners would take a year off and put their feet up. However, That’s the last thing on the minds of the Heroes who have a burning desire to help the hospital that literally has meant life for their kids.

Before the world was rocked COVID-19, the marathon ran right through St. Jude’s campus. In 2019, a patient named Claire and her mom watched as runners passed by.

“There were thousands of them, and so many of them had tears coming down their cheeks. They saw the kids, and realized really deeply what they were running for,” Jayne Kepsel, St. Jude Hero and patient mom, said.

When Claire and her large family in Utah found out the St. Jude Marathon could be run anywhere this year, she had one question:

“And she said... can I run? Right here at home? I said absolutely you can. We will all run with you. All of us together,” Kepsel said.

“We have had extra time with Zac because we were blessed to come to this place in Memphis,” Amy Carter, patient parent and St. Jude Hero, said.

Carter says she’ll run a half marathon around her family home in the mountains of Virginia at the request of her 15-year-old son, Zac.

We have a second family in Memphis. The staff, the medical staff, the nurses, the X-ray tech, the people in the cafeteria, the environmental services. They are our family,” Carter said.

That loving St. Jude staff created a finish line for Hillary Husband, who dragged an I-V pole the equivalent of 26.2 miles through hospital hallways when she was a patient. Now 27, she’s healthy and a St. Jude Hero, having beaten cancer 3 times. She has already done a virtual 5k and 10k, a half marathon, and now the virtual full St. Jude Memphis Marathon with support from her Louisiana hometown.

“Cancer doesn’t stop just because of the pandemic. Kids still need treatment. St. Jude needs to keep the doors open,” Husband said.

Avery arrived at St. Jude for the first time during marathon week. Now her father Isaac, on active duty in the U.S. Army in Washington State, and mom Rachel return to run in gratitude each year.

“Come to be a big family event not only for our immediate family but our parents, our aunts our cousins. We all come, every December. This will be our fifth year even though it’s virtual this year,” Avery’s mom Rachel said.

“People in the military are actively participating and giving to St. Jude,” Avery’s father Isaac said.

Paula Head runs in memory of her beloved daughter Carson Elizabeth. Team Carson has become a force for St. Jude at the Marathon.

“After she passed away, we just kept that up, and the team keeps growing and growing. We do it as a family every year, and we do the Half Marathon,” Head said.

St. Jude will do whatever it takes to find cures and save children. Those kids and their families will also do whatever it takes so St. Jude can keep doing just that.

Be sure to watch WMC at 8:30 a.m. Saturday morning to see special coverage of the virtual St. Jude Memphis Marathon.

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