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home : news : north central illinois   May 25, 2016

7/31/2014 5:11:00 PM
Cancer survivor ready to run to Peoria for St. Jude

Submitted photoCancer survivor Katee Johnson; Marisa Setchell, a sister of former a St. Jude cancer patient; and Setchell’s cousin Abby Barker will run in the St. Jude Run from J.C. Penney in Peru Mall to Peoria starting at 6:30 a.m. Saturday.
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Submitted photo
Cancer survivor Katee Johnson; Marisa Setchell, a sister of former a St. Jude cancer patient; and Setchell’s cousin Abby Barker will run in the St. Jude Run from J.C. Penney in Peru Mall to Peoria starting at 6:30 a.m. Saturday.
Craig Sterrett
News Editor

One longtime St. Jude Runner will ride rather than run with the pack this year, but several younger runners are picking up the baton for the cause.

New St. Jude runners
Katee Johnson, a 19-year-old cancer survivor and former St. Jude Children’s Hospital patient, will run Saturday for the second time in the 66-mile Peru-to-Peoria relay, and her friend, Mendota High School senior Marisa Setchell, will run, too. Setchell is running for the second year in recognition of her sister, Mallary.

“This year we celebrated her 10 years of being a survivor. She’s 14,” Setchell said of Mallary, a Mendota High School sophomore who was a St. Jude renal sarcoma patient as a child.

Setchell joined forces this year in fundraising for the run with her uncle, Tom Sondgeroth, mom, Karrie; friend, Matti McConville; and cousins, Abby Barker and Brooklyn. All of them plan to run 3- to 4-mile legs in the relay that starts at 6:30 a.m. Saturday from Peru Mall. To raise money, they had a fundraiser with help from Cherry Berry in Peru Mall on Wednesday.

Running for the hospital that helped her
Though Johnson’s treatments from diagnosis of acute lymphocytic leukemia to remission were more than a decade ago, from age 3 to 6, she is forever grateful for the hospital.

“I mean, my parents didn’t have to pay for absolutely anything, so that was wonderful,” said Johnson, a Mendota High School graduate.

In addition, her parents tell her the St. Jude staff showed great consideration by working around their schedules, making sure treatments fit their schedules and handling as many procedures and checkups as possible at Peoria instead of Memphis, Tenn.

Johnson would like to be able to give even more back to and her family that she made landing a job with St. Jude or the Peoria affiliate hospital a career goal. When she was a patient, the staff members made a lasting impression.

“In Peoria, ladies would play with children and they’d work with the parents,” she said.

After completing studies at Illinois Valley Community College, she wants to study family and children studies at Northern Illinois University. Her dream job would be at St. Jude.

Local runners to lead the pack in Peoria
The late Chris Christian from Starved Rock Runners organized the first local satellite run to Peoria, and Lori Guerrini and Randy Pratt have coordinated the local run since his death. Each of the 35-40 local runners raised a minimum of $750, and those funds combined with money from various fundraisers, will be presented by the local group at the Peoria Civic Center.

Usually the first group to run into the civic center is the one with the longest drive home. But this year, the local group will come in first.

“This year we have 34 satellite runs from various cities and La Salle-Peru is the longest-standing run; we’re celebrating our 30th anniversary this year,” Guerrini said.

Guerrini said she’s proud that the local group is the only one that has run to Peoria for 30 consecutive years, and it always has a good fundraising total even compared with the Chicago and St. Louis groups.

“I’m thinking this year if we reach our goal, we could pass the million-dollar mark over 30 years,” Guerrini said.

The local fundraising has accelerated in recent years since Wal-Mart Distribution Center in Spring Valley started providing big donations as well as volunteers at fundraisers such as this past weekend’s 3-D shoot and archery tournament at a south Spring Valley boat and archery shop. Not counting the donations from Wal-Mart, and previous tag days and car washes, last Saturday’s event raised $1,017 from the archery manager and $500 from lure sales from Flic Sobkowiak’s collection.

What Guerrini appreciates most about St. Jude is “no family has to worry about financial burden if their child is part of the St. Jude program,” she said. “And we have, unfortunately, a lot of children of the Illinois Valley who are St. Jude kids.”
Normally, Guerrini runs, but this year she will not due to weakness from, ironically, cancer.

“This will be the first year I won’t be able to put any miles in,” she said.

Craig Sterrett can be reached at (815) 220-6935 or Follow him on Twitter @NT_NewsEditor.

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