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Bob (from left), Katee and Karen Johnson support St. Jude Children’s Hospital any way they can after Katee was diagnosed with leukemia when she was 3. Katee plans to run in the La Salle/Peru St. Jude Run on Saturday.
More then 15 years ago Katee Lee Johnson was diagnosed with leukemia, leaving her family with the possibility she may never survive childhood. Not only did Katee, 18, survive leukemia, but now she dreams of one day helping children with cancer by working at St. Jude Children’s Hospital. Right now, Katee has been preparing for the La Salle/Peru St. Jude Run this Saturday, and already has raised $850 for the hospital within one week. Every morning Katee runs 3 to 4 miles to prepare for the 67-mile race, which will start at Peru Mall and end at the Peoria Civic Center with proceeds going toward the hospital. Each runner needs $750 to participate. Her mother, Karen, said this will be the first year Katee is eligible to participate. In the past, family members and friends have run in the race for Katee, Karen said. “It is cool to see how they were running to help kids like her, and now Katee is running for others,” Karen Johnson said. Her parents can barely talk about their beloved daughter’s ordeal without tearing up. “I am very humbled,” said Bob Johnson, Katee’s father. “It is hard not to fight back the tears.” Katee was diagnosed with leukemia when she was 3. Before entering remission when she was 6, the Johnson family traveled to St. Jude hospitals for treatment from Peoria to Memphis, Tenn. Katee also went through three years of chemotherapy and took steroids, which changed her physically and emotionally. St Jude Children’s Hospital helped the Johnsons pay close to $1 million for treatment, Bob Johnson said. After remission, Katee went back to the hospital every year to see the effects of chemotherapy on her physically and mentally. Today, Katee has not had any relapses and plans to go back to the hospital in September. After Katee has turned 18 and has not had any relapses, the doctors can say Katee has been cured, Karen Johnson said. Since Katee’s remission, the Johnson family has been giving back to St. Jude through the run or other fundraising events. “St. Jude’s did so much for me when I was sick,” Katee said. “I would like to raise money to give back to them.” The Johnson family said St. Jude does a great job of alleviating the stress of being sick. Karen Johnson said the rooms are colorful and bright, and there are many toys for the children. After graduating from Mendota Township High School, Katee wants to eventually receive a doctorate in psychology and help children at St. Jude’s. “Every time I go there, the more I realize I want to work there,” Katee said. Originally, Katee wanted to join the National Guard, but because of her medical history, the process was taking to long. Now, she will be attending Illinois Valley Community College and will be running for queen in Mendota’s Sweet Corn Pageant. If people would like to donate to the cause they can access the St. Jude Run website. Then they can type in the La Salle Peru run and Katee’s name. The run will start at 6:30 a.m. and currently 40 runners have signed up to participate in the run, said , coordinator Randy Pratt. This is the 29th year for the run.