Twenty-one years ago, a small group of Lincoln residents staged a
run to Peoria to show support for a friend whose child was a patient
in Peoria, at the Midwest affiliate of St. Jude Children's Research
Hospital, Memphis. Every year since, there has been a
Lincoln-to-Peoria run to raise funds for St. Jude.
This year there
were 16 runners and 11 support volunteers on the Lincoln team. It is
a 55-mile trip to the Peoria Civic Center, where 27 teams from
Chicago and central Illinois towns came together to deliver their
donation checks to St. Jude representatives.
Runners "leapfrog" the distance, usually running a few miles,
taking a rest by riding on the bus and then returning to the road
when ready. Runners can cover whatever distance they want but are
not expected to run the entire 55 miles. But there are always
runners on the road between the point of departure and the arrival
point where a team regroups before members run together into the
After the Lincoln runners left the police station, they traveled
north on Logan, turned onto Keokuk until they reached Lincoln
College, then turned right on Ottawa and continued north as it
became Nicholson Road. A police escort took them through town; saw
them safely across Old Route 66 and into the country.
The runners stayed on secondary roads and did not run down the
highway. To ensure safety, runners always wear a mesh vest with a
reflective stripe around it. Even in early morning, the reflective
material was catching light from various sources and signaling
The team passed through Hartsburg and received cheers there from
a few early risers. Then the first official stop was in Emden.
"We stop at the firehouse in Emden to let everyone rest, and they
always have water and fruit ready for us," said team leader Jennifer
Bergman. "Mr. Aper is a wonderful man. He is always so nice to us.
The fire department always gives a donation that the members have
collected around town. This year the donation was $426."
The running team continued north to Delavan and west of Tremont
before heading through East Peoria and crossing the Bob Michel
Bridge over the Illinois River. Tremont is more than halfway to the
final stretch, and runners are always ready to take another break at
"At the place where we pass outside of Tremont, there is a
couple, Tom and Dawn Brewer, that treats us so well," Bergman
explained, "and the runners look forward to that stop also, every
"They have cold clothes and a sprinkler to cool us off; they let
us use their bathroom. They just open their home up to us, and we
feel much better by the time we get back on the road. And, even
after doing all that for us, they make a donation to the cause."
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This year, the paramedics who traveled with the team were Chris
Buse and Scott Kuhlman, whose daughter, Gabby, was a first-year
runner. At 16, she was required to have a parent present, so her
father went along with a dual purpose. Also this year, chiropractor
Karen Dzekunskas, owner of Family Chiropractic Center, volunteered
her services to attend to stiff muscles and other concerns caused by
the physical stress of running.
"The runners loved Karen, and she already volunteered to go with
us next year," Bergman said in a post-event interview. "It really
made a difference to have someone along who could massage stiff
muscles and address running-specific issues immediately."
Other volunteers included two drivers with vehicles that stayed a
few miles ahead of the runners, announcing the event to the
communities and encouraging people to cheer for the runners. They
also collect donations from townspeople in the locations where they
pass through a town. This year the drivers collected over $2,000
along the way. Other drivers provided chase vehicles to follow the
runners and pick up anyone who might have fallen behind or become
In addition to the charter bus that carried runners, Lincoln
resident John Barrick drove his RV along the route, providing space
for the chiropractor's work area and as a first-aid station for the
paramedics. John's wife, Heather, was a fourth-year runner on
Registered runners are expected to raise $750 in donations, which
is the way funds are collected from the community and beyond. The
Lincoln team raised $20,000 this year, a significant increase over
the $12,250 donation total in 2010.
"This is an event that has not received much attention, and most
people outside of the runners and volunteers do not understand what
it's about," Bergman said. "The community needs to acknowledge what
the team is willing to do for the kids of St. Jude."
[By MARLA BLAIR]