A Publication of WTVP

The dog days of summer are here. For the past 25 years, the first week of August has signified an event unique to just one city in the entire United States. That one city is Peoria, and that event is the Memphis to Peoria Run to benefit cancer research at St. Jude Children’s Hospital. There probably isn’t one person in our city who has not heard of the amazing research being done to reduce and hopefully someday eliminate childhood cancer. So I think it’s important I focus on the St. Jude Run this month—a few words about the run, the special relationship between Memphis and Peoria, and a couple of people without whose leadership these relationships would’ve never grown are appropriate. The relevance of the run to our community is important too.

Twenty-five years and over 11,000 miles ago, Mike McCoy and Gene Pratt came up with an idea to raise money for the kids at St. Jude: a run from Memphis to Peoria. Every year, Sheriff McCoy has driven 25 contingents of runners to Memphis, only to turn around the next day and lead them on a 465-mile trek back to Peoria. Around the clock for four days, a group of dedicated people pounds the pavement for the kids in the sweltering heat and humidity. And this year, McCoy is doing it again. He and Tom Kahn miraculously survived being run over on an early morning run last January. With the same strength and determination that gets the runners home every year, Mike and Tom recovered and will make the run again this year.

The Relationship. Former mayor Jim Maloof and his close personal friend Danny Thomas teamed with other American Lebanese Syrian leaders to build the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis. Due to that friendship and a lot of hard work by Maloof and others, we were able to build an affiliate right here in Peoria. A strong partnership with OSF Saint Francis Hospital will now take our affiliate to the next level when OSF’s new Children’s Hospital is built on the downtown campus.

The Leaders. There isn’t enough room in this column to list the thousands of people who’ve put Peoria on the map for their efforts towards cancer research. But there are certainly two people who’ve made the affiliate and the Memphis to Peoria Run outstanding successes: Maloof and McCoy. On behalf of our entire community, I want to publicly thank them for their tireless efforts for the kids.

The Community. We all know what a giving community Peoria is. We also know as we continue to retool and gear ourselves toward being a strong regional medical powerhouse that these relationships will help us make it happen. We have to concentrate on expanding our medical opportunities—a St. Jude affiliate today, perhaps a cancer research center in the years ahead. Our educational opportunities supported by ICC, Robert Morris, Midstate, Bradley University, and the University of Illinois School of Medicine are providing top-quality people to enter the medical profession. Our medical institutions—OSF Saint Francis Medical Center, Methodist Medical Center, and Proctor Hospital—are all exceptional organizations. There are strong signs of a new willingness for them to partner for the benefit of all, too.

The resources we have in a community our size are unbelievable. And so often, we take them for granted. The message is take a step back and recognize what we’ve done here, what we have here, what we’re continuing to do here, and what our opportunities in the future are here. The future is bright.

The St. Jude Run from Memphis to Peoria leaves Memphis on August 2 and returns to Peoria on August 5. The annual St. Jude telethon will be on WEEK-TV 25 that night—I hope you’ll have an opportunity to watch it. These runs have generated over $12 million dollars the past 24 years, and this year could be a record year for funds raised. Twenty-five years—well done, Mike McCoy; well done, St. Jude runners; and well done, Peoria. IBI