St. Jude team to hit decade $1M mark

Marianne Gillespie
Chillicothe St. Jude runners make the trek through town on Fourth Street last year. As usual, the team will run the street between 1 p.m. and 1:15 p.m. Saturday as they are led by police cars and fire trucks. The team's total will be announced on the St. Jude Telethon at WEEK-TV at 9:39 p.m.

The Chillicothe to Peoria St. Jude Run team will be celebrating a lot of zeroes come Saturday.

This year marks the 10th year the team has made the 55-mile run around the Illinois Valley Central District 321 school boundaries and finally to the Peoria Civic Center, keeping the children struggling with cancer in the forefront.

With more than 120 runners raising a minimum of $1,000 for the cause, this year the team is expected to hit more than $1 million raised through the run in the last decade.

“Our goal every year is to beat last year’s total,” said Chillicothe’s Run Coordinator Rick Lingenfelter.

Last year the team raised a whopping $262,000, the largest of any satellite team except Chicago, bringing the Chillicothe team’s overall contribution to about $930,000.

That is quite the total from $11,000 in 2005, the first year the Chillicothe team participated.

“It’s a monumental year for us,” Lingenfelter said.

This year also is a special year in that two runners of the team are former St. Jude patients themselves — Josh Bundy, who is running for the first year, and Susan Mettille, who has run previously.

Several St. Jude families also will be running, and as is the custom, Chillicothe children who have used St. Jude’s services will lead the runners as they make their way down Fourth Street between 1 p.m. and 1:15 p.m. The runners will head to Peoria after the fanfare.

Also this year some runners are branching off to run with other satellite teams.

Chillicothe native Di (Cox) Read who has run with the Chillicothe team previously began a new team in Metamora, where she lives now, Lingenfelter said. A couple runners are helping her with that endeavor.

Other runners decided to run with Princeville due to being involved with families there.

Morton’s team also was started by some Chillicotheans years ago, Lingenfelter added.

“We can take pride in making these teams bigger and better. We don’t get disappointed if they aren’t running with us,” Lingenfelter.

Despite a few runners swapping teams, the Chillicothe team still has about 30 new runners.

That proves to be good for the team, Lingenfelter said, as the more seasoned runners get to experience the adrenaline rush and excitement again with the new runners.

The team’s trademark chase van will crank out the tunes as the team runs.

They begin their trip from the high school at 6:30 a.m. and head out of town to Woodland Heights, Hickory Grove, Lake of the Woods, Cedar Hills Estates, Galena Knolls, Timberwalk and then back into city limits via Sycamore Trail. After running on Fourth Street, the team detours to Riverbeach Drive before heading back down Illinois Route 29 to the civic center.

The fruit of their efforts will be revealed that night on the St. Jude Telethon on WEEK-TV at 9:39 p.m., including an expected large contribution from the Brad Wallin Memorial Baseball Tournament.

Wallin is one of three children in recent years who received St. Jude’s services, but succumbed to cancer. Lexi Helfrich and Josh Pilger also lost their battles with the disease.

Those are not the only Chillicothe children affected within the last decade or so, however.

Rachel Mattson, Dylan Barry and Drew Labeda all have used St. Jude’s resources, which does not charge families for its services in treating childhood cancer.

Residents wanting to help Chillicothe’s total surge may give their money to the can shakers out in force on Saturday, beginning at 8 a.m.

The 90 volunteers in bright green shirts will be around local intersections taking the “last minute” donations.

“The can shakers are a vital part of raising the money at the last minute,” Lingenfelter said.

They will give out cards for residents to put on their dashboards for people to see they have donated.