A “running veteran” of the 1980's boom, my sole focus was racing and qualifying for the Boston Marathon. This left no time for volunteering or giving back to the running community. Ultimately, a small seed was planted after my Pastor challenged board members to attend a “spiritual gifts” class. I suspected that my gift involved leadership and organization, but God works in mysterious ways and Race To Cure Lymphoma debuted September 6, 2003 in the small community of Chatham, IL.
A that time, the event was better known as Race For Brazil, and our proceeds benefited scholarships and literacy projects in northeast Brazil. The inaugural year attracted 135 participants and slowly gained popularity throughout central Illinois. Race For Brazil would continue for three years as the experience of giving back to my Brazilian friends and the running community was rewarding.
Then without any warning, my family faced an unexpected challenge in 2006 that became our most difficult test yet. In March, our oldest daughter Sarah, developed what began as an innocent cough during her sophomore year of college. The school physician prescribed several medications, but nothing offered relief. An appointment during spring break with our family physician revealed an abnormal growth in her lungs. After several days of arduous testing, Non-Hodgkin’s Large Type B Cell Lymphoma was diagnosed.
It was an aggressive cancer, but the doctor’s words of encouragement and options for treatment were reassuring. Sarah had an excellent oncologist and medical staff working on her behalf as well as a tremendous support group of family, church and friends. It was a stressful journey, but we were rewarded with amazing news after five exhausting months. In what can only be explained as a miracle, Sarah was in remission and released for her junior year.
During her treatment, Race For Brazil was the last thought on my mind. After Sarah received a clean bill of health, the work for an October race was jump-started. As our plans unfolded, the name did not seem to fit because Sarah had crossed the finish line in the “race” of her life. My daughter’s life was saved because others had donated their time and resources to advance cancer research so she could beat Lymphoma.
As a result, I felt an overwhelming obligation to repay a debt, and decided to change the name. It's a debt that will never be fully repaid, and the name became Race To Cure Lymphoma. We welcomed marathon champion, Dick Beardsley, in that 2006 event and it was embraced with overwhelming support. The venue then relocated to St. Louis the following year when a new job opportunity was accepted.
Race To Cure Lymphoma experienced several years of steady growth through 2012 then suffered a setback. Our attendance took a major hit after a proliferation of new races, and the board adopted to move in a new direction. After much deliberation, we changed our name to FLAT AS A PANCAKE. It was symbolic for our Missouri River flat lands location at St. Louis Outlet Mall that would also include a pancake breakfast served by Chris Cakes. Each race was assigned a “pancake theme” and the decision resulted in much improved attendance.
A second event was introduced in 2014 to coincide with the celebration of Cinco de Mayo. It's a 5K road race in Webster Groves with an added bonus of delicious breakfast burritos and tasty margaritas. It's apply named CINCO K MAYO and our proceeds fund a scholarship program to benefit cancer surviving counselors at the Camp Rainbow Foundation. It was named after a dear friend who succumbed to stomach cancer, and is called the Camilo Clavijo Scholarship Program.
As if two events weren't enough, Race To Cure Lymphoma unveiled a third in June 2015. It was named MASTER THE MOUND and was a 10K point-to-point trail race in Weldon Spring. The event started at the Lost Valley trailhead and transversed the fire roads before joining the Hamburg Trail to finish at the DOE Interpretive Center. A deluge of rain early in the week of that first year resulted in a new start line, but MASTER THE MOUND still made its debut. However, poor attendance would force us to make a difficult decision to cancel the event two years later.
Each year offers unique challenges, but ironically this journey began in 2003 on a “leap of faith” with no inclination where it might lead. Despite learning about heartbreaking stories, there's also many others that are truly uplifting. And Sarah’s gift of life continues to provide renewed inspiration to help others in their battle to overcome cancer.
Another gratifying experience is the opportunity to include family and friends in this journey. My wonderful wife is a tremendous source of encouragement, and our many volunteers graciously support the cause. God works in mysterious ways and Race To Cure Lymphoma has been a tremendous influence on my life and allowed me to use my passion for a greater purpose.
Each year offers the opportunity to renew friendships, make new acquaintances and learn about inspiring stories. While our primary mission remains funding cancer research and other local cancer related organizations, our events are also a celebration of life and fitness. Please join us in this endeavor to find a cure by donating, participating or volunteering at one or all of our events.
Race To Cure Lymphoma realizes our events would not be possible without the support from our participants and sponsors. You train hard and to celebrate your amazing accomplishment, a limited edition medal is awarded to our finishers. For many, a medal symbolizes hard work and is a reward for accomplishing a personal goal.
Many cancer patients suffer through lengthy and debilitating treatments. Their fight to beat cancer is extremely demanding and requires major personal sacrifice. Oftentimes something as simple as a medal offers strength and hope for a child to complete that next treatment. Medals for Heroes was established as an outreach program in cooperation with Camp Rainbow and Friends of Kids with Cancer. It involves members from Race To Cure Lymphoma visiting local hospitals to award a donated or surplus race medal along with much needed encouragement to the ‘Real Heroes.' Participants can also make a difference and be a source of hope by donating their medal towards this program.
Another opportunity to participate in Medals for Heroes involves a personal connection you may have with someone suffering from cancer. If you know of anyone that might benefit from this program, Race To Cure Lymphoma will send a medal and inspirational message on your behalf. Please visit 'Medal to a Hero' for more information about this special outreach program.
Your generous support and/or unwanted medal is greatly appreciated and will provide much needed inspiration to that special little hero.
Camilo Clavijo Scholarship Program:
In October 2012 the Race To Cure Lymphoma family lost a close friend to stomach cancer. Camilo Clavijo was thirty-five years old and an artistic genius who generously donated his talents by designing our race logos. While Camilo lived in Bogota Columbia, the internet allowed good friends to maintain a close yet personal relationship. Camilo had an amazing zest for life and was not only not only an artist extraordinaire, but also an extraordinary person. He will certainly be missed by all.
To celebrate Camilo's life, Race To Cure Lymphoma established a scholarship program for cancer surviving counselors serving the Camp Rainbow Foundation. Each year this program provides funds for the cost of tuition or books. Race To Cure Lymphoma hopes the same benevolent qualities exemplified by Camilo might also inspire each recipient to continue applying their talents in service of their community.
Race To Cure Lymphoma is committed to funding cancer organizations and projects since being founded in 2007. During this time, our donations have totaled $110,000 and awarded to institutions such as: The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, Camp Rainbow, St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, Make A Wish Foundation and Pancreatic Cancer Action Network. RTCL is humbled to have an impact on these organizations as well as promote fitness and health in the running community.
Gary & RTCL team,
This was my first participation in your race. I will now register for it every year that I can. It is by far, the most well organized race day that I have experienced. The venue was so easy to get to. And, to be able to park as close as you could to the assembly area and start/finish line is impossible to equal for any other race held in the St. Louis area during the entire year. I've got two races coming up downtown and not looking forward to closed streets and mystery shop parking. Such was not the case at The Mills.
The pancakes were great, an excellent meal after a race. What an awesome t-shirt! My daughter is jealous. The balloon release, now that was a touch of class. While it was tough holding back tears for my Mom & Dad, who both lost battles with cancer, it was a wonderful way to remember them.
Thanks ladies and gentlemen. Give yourselves a pat on the back. You stand tall in the St. Louis running community in numerous ways!
Gary & RTCL team,
The race was well organized and fantastic as usual, however the addition of Chris' Cakes was AMAZING!!!! Another great shirt this year and the friendliest volunteers around----keep up the great work. Very intrigued by the Cinco K Mayo concept........
Thanks for all your hard work,
Gary & RTCL team,
Love the new race name! I am thinking of doing the double race and would like to know if I get the finisher medal and a second medal (pancake shape) for the 15K? Would like to pass this race on to some friends for the medal bling Thanks for your time. I always enjoy this race!
Gary & RTCL team,
I gave my gold medal that I received at your race to a friend (Kris) of mine who’s undergoing chemo for a lymphoma. I engraved her name on the back of it and gave it to her at dinner 2 nights ago. She teared up. She has had a rough time lately and I wanted her to know that things will get better. Kris has kind of become my purpose. I’ve always run, done tri’s, marathons, ironman, etc., but I know how important it is for her to realize that there is life after chemo. I know that it is helping her and her husband both. It’s important to know that the finish line is in sight for her, but that there will be bumps in the road.
When I went through my treatments we did not have a “sponsor” to help walk us through this journey. My wife said that had it not been for God, there is no way that she could have made it. With my wife and I both, we are able to give guidance and hand holding to our friend that I could only have imagined how great that would have been.
So when I won my age category last Saturday, it really wasn’t for me. It was for Kris and for all of the people that are currently undergoing chemo. I felt great getting up in front of everyone and wearing my survivor shirt, while receiving that gold medal.
Just thought you might like a little insight from my perspective. Thanks for all you do!
Gary & RTCL team,
You guys do a great job. I’m on the St. Pat’s Downtown Parade Committee (5 mile race). Know how hard you work.
Gary & RTCL team,
Thanks for including my “Spidermen” children in the website pics! Also, wanted to share: last year I raced for 2 lymphoma survivors – My 80 year old grandma and my young 20 something co-worker. Unfortunately, this year we are racing for a newly diagnosed 20 something. The little red Spiderman in the pictures had a beloved pre-school teacher last year, “Miss Jenna” who just completed her first year as a certified teacher. At the start of this school year, Miss Jenna felt extremely exhausted and had swollen glands. All “vague” symptoms according to doctors. So the blood tests began and “Miss Jenna” was diagnosed just a few weeks ago with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Her port was placed last week and she will begin Chemo treatments soon, if not already.
We will be there again this year – the boys can’t wait to put on their superhero costumes and show their support.
Thank you for giving our family the opportunity to celebrate the lives of our survivors and support those who are fighting the fight.
Gary & RTCL team,
The race was amazing, and I’ve already told friends that RTCL is now on my autumn radar. I loved the course. Clearly, it’s a PR’s dream. The staff was great, too. I’ve come to believe that the most enthusiastic volunteers are at benefit races. They’re always so grateful that the racers are there. As a racer, I felt welcomed, appreciated, and thanked from the moment I got to the race site.
Thanks for the email, the race was great and is now on my personal and club radar. Congratulations on a race well run and I am grateful to have participated.
Gary & RTCL Team,
I have run the race for the last two years. I find it to not only be a great cause, but also a great race. Being a prostate cancer survivor I have some idea of what other cancer patients are going through. If there is any way I can be of assistance for this year’s race please don’t hesitate to contact me. Thanks for all you do.