Just a couple hours after returning home from running my first half marathon as part of the St. Jude Memphis Marathon Weekend, I found myself being interrupted by one of my son’s friends at our neighborhood holiday tree lighting.
“Mrs. Barr? Thomas said you ran a marathon.”
“No,” I gently replied to correct the boy. “I ran a half marathon but the weekend is called St. Jude Memphis Marathon and there are different distances you can do. There’s a 5K, a 10K, the half that I ran, a full marathon and also the Kids’ Marathon…”
The boy interrupted me mid-sentence with a shrug saying, “Oh well. Thomas said you ran a marathon” and ran off to rejoin his friends.
I returned to my conversation, slightly annoyed by the exchange but for reasons I couldn’t put my finger on right then and there. The look in his eyes was one of disappointment but I couldn’t tell if it because he thought my son wasn’t telling the truth or because he would have been more impressed if I had run the full 26.2 miles as part of a marathon than the 13.1 I did as the half. I shrugged it off while returning to my conversation and taking in the scent of warm apple cider in the air as the soft glow of lights coming off our neighborhood Christmas tree grew brighter as the sun went down.
At bedtime, I mentioned this exchange to Thomas who told about his friend’s competitive nature.
“Thomas,” I said, turning on an elbow to face him, “you realize that while I’m happy that I finished my half marathon and earned my medal, that I am more proud of the money I raised for St. Jude, right?”
He nodded while I continued saying, “The $2,650 in donations that I got for my race was just a small part of the $10 million dollars raised for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. That money that I raised helps so many kids get the best care they can get from the best doctors and medical professionals in the world that their parents never ever have to pay for. Parents with kids at St. Jude never receive a bill for their treatment, travel, housing, or food. Money also helps fund research that, I hope, will one day end childhood cancer for good.”
“Yeah, mom,” replied my son. “But some kids aren’t about that.”
And in that moment I was sad because I wished that boy hadn’t run off so quickly. I wished that I had a minute more to emphasize that the distance I ran didn’t matter but that the money I raised as a St. Jude Hero matters more than anything.
When I visited St. Jude this past April, I was told that I would have a St. Jude moment. No one could tell me how visiting the organization whose mission is “Finding cures. Saving children® might impact me but it did.
This year parents of nearly 16,000 children in the United States will be told, “Your child has cancer.” 1 in 5 of those children won’t survive.
Every single day 1.5 families walk through the doors of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital because they’ve been told their child has cancer. Those families come every single day of the week— on weekends, holidays, and birthdays—with the hope that the doctors at St. Jude can help their child live.
As a parent, this hits my heart. It gives me goosebumps, brings tears to my eyes, and makes me feel so very fortunate that today, my kids are healthy.
But if they weren’t and I were to get such news, I would hope that the words “your child has cancer” would be followed by a doctor telling me that we were going to getting on a plane to Memphis to be treated by St. Jude.
St. Jude provides the very best care for children battling cancer and other life-threatening diseases. Their daily operating costs are $2.2 million dollars. 12% of the money to operate the hospital comes from insurance. 75% of the budgeted costs of St. Jude are covered by public contributions. Over the last three years, an average of $0.83 of every dollar received has supported the research and treatment at St. Jude.
St. Jude Memphis Marathon Weekend was about the families whose children are receiving treatment at St. Jude, for those who will be told their child has cancer, and for those who have lost a child. It wasn’t about me and my half marathon. It was about making a commitment to run as a St. Jude Hero and raise money that helps find cures and save children because while St. Jude has some incredibly inspiring success stories, even the best doctors in the world can’t save every child from cancer.
I was reminded why I was raising money for St. Jude and running 13.1 miles when mom, Paula Head, spoke to 2,500 of us the night before our race and shared the story of her 9 year old daughter, Carson Elizabeth (pictured above), during our St. Jude Heroes pre-race pasta dinner.
Life can change in a blink of an eye, but no one ever thinks it will happen to them. But every single day a family’s life is changed forever by the news that their child has cancer. The day my family’s life changed was March 7, 2014. The day before our youngest daughter Carson’s 8th birthday. The day we should have been getting ready for the birthday celebrations to come, and the spring break trip to the grandparents. But the party never started and we never left on our trip. Carson had been having trouble with knee pain; which the Dr. had explained as either a basketball or hip-hop injury; all just a normal part of being an active, growing, 7 year old young girl. After the X-ray and then a whirlwind MRI we heard the word osteosarcoma for the first time in our lives. In a fog of unbelief we heard that osteosarcoma was a very rare bone tumor and St. Jude was already expecting us.
What?! They must be wrong, they had to be wrong…our daughter was fine, we couldn’t pronounce, much less spell what they were trying to explain to us. Our beautiful little girl could not possibly have cancer. But she did. And all of a sudden our whole world stopped in an instance; and to be honest, it has never starting turning quite the same again.
Over plates of pasta, salad, and chicken piled high on plates to fuel us for the next morning’s races, Paula’s powerful story was a reminder to each and every one of us about why we run.
Carson Elizabeth passed away on June 26, 2015.
Today she would be 10— the same age as my son, Thomas.
For me, running my first half marathon was a wonderful personal goal but crossing the finish line and receiving my finisher’s medal was the cherry on top of my ultimate goal- raising money to help St. Jude kids and families.
I only wish I could go back in time to relive this conversation with my son’s classmate to emphasize these 5 things:
- When you run for St. Jude, it’s not about the distance, it’s all about the money.
- I ran my half marathon as a St. Jude Hero and I am so incredibly proud of the $2,650 I raised.
- This year’s race raised over $10 million dollars, almost $2 million more than in 2015.
- I’d invite him to join me and beat me. I’d tap into his competitive spirit by challenging him to choose any St. Jude Memphis Marathon Weekend Race, join my St. Jude fundraising team, and beat me by raising more money than me because I am happy to compete with anyone if it helps raise more money for the kids and families of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
- If he can’t take me up on the above, I’d issue him a challenge to make a difference by emptying his piggy bank and donating that money because each and every dollar matters to St. Jude.
I would never accept a challenge to run a race faster than anyone else because the amount of money I raise will always be more important than whatever distance I run and the time it takes to complete my race.
Because as Paula Head said, “there is no training that prepares a mother for the words “your child has cancer.” Run with the faith of a child so that all children can cross the finish line. Children of St. Jude run on hope that cancer will be a thing of the past.”
For more information, visit the St. Jude website to learn how you can run in next year’s St. Jude Memphis Marathon as a Hero. You can also make a tax deductible donation support my St. Jude Memphis Marathon Race.
Read my past posts about St. Jude:
- Why I’m running 13.1 Miles for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital
- Why You’ll Love Target Even More After Seeing these Photos
- St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital Makes Education a Priority to Kids through St. Jude School
I am a St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital ambassador but am not compensated for my role and personally covered my race expenses for the St. Jude Memphis Marathon beyond the perks I received as a Gold Entry St. Jude Hero.