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Excel Employees Run for a Reason

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On Saturday, July 30th, more than a hundred people gathered for the 15th Annual St. Jude Pekin to Peoria Run. This 33 mile endurance run began at the Avanti’s Dome in Pekin, and concluded at the Peoria Civic Center. The event culminated with the arrival of all the other satellite runners from various cities across the state, along with the Memphis to Peoria runners, who ran a total distance of 465 miles. The focus of the St. Jude runs is to raise money and awareness for childhood cancer. Three employees from Excel participated, and each expressed a strong passion toward the organization.

Machinist, Steve Beach, has been a St. Jude runner for four years, but took this year off to help raise awareness. Steve’s grandson, Colton, was diagnosed with leukemia at age 3. In 2011, Steve had just accepted Excel’s job offer, and upon receiving the news about his grandson’s illness, he called Steve Stewart, Director of Human Resources. He remembers being pleased when Steve (Stewart) told him, “You go and take care of business. We’ll be waiting for you when you return.” He and his family traveled to Memphis, where they spent the next 3-4 months for research and treatment of his grandson. Steve stated, “St. Jude is an amazing organization. Until a person goes through this type of situation, they simply can’t understand how amazing the people are there. They make you feel at ease…they want to be there and help the children and families.” Steve is happy to say that Colton is currently in remission!

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Manufacturing Engineer, Tim Allen, and his wife, Amber, are committee members of the Pekin to Peoria Run, and have participated for over eleven years, in memory of their nephew, Zach. Zach was diagnosed with Neuroblastoma at age 3, and unfortunately lost his 9-year battle in 2005. Tim shared that St. Jude (Peoria and Memphis) became a second home to Zach and his family, and it never felt like a hospital. He stated, “The environment that St. Jude created for Zach and the other patients was amazing! The people there made it fun and enjoyable for the kids, and family members knew that their children were receiving world-class care. It was a place where the kids could forget about the cancer. The doctors and nurses gave them HOPE to live another day.” Amber added, “Running for one day is the least we can do for an organization that gave us ten years with a child who never complained, was ‘tough as nails,’ often ornery, and always had a smile.”

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Marketing Assistant, Brandon Burling, has participated as a St. Jude Runner since 2014. He became involved in 2004, when his, then future, father-in-law, Ken, visited the Midwest Affiliate during the Holiday season as Santa Claus. Brandon remembers seeing the faces of those children “light up,” even though some had just received their chemotherapy. When he and his wife, Kendra, were married in 2006, they made a donation to St. Jude, in lieu of wedding favors for their guests. Brandon believes that running in the Pekin to Peoria Run is a good homage to his late grandfather, who passed away from colon cancer. Brandon states, “I continue to run each year because it gives me a purpose. I do it for those who can’t. I have friends and family who have been impacted by childhood cancer, but in the meantime, I’ve been blessed with two healthy boys. It means a lot to help raise awareness, support my community, and express the importance of paying it forward to such a worthy cause.”

The St. Jude Pekin to Peoria Runners raised $115,000, and altogether, $9.8 million through the various satellite runs and donations. These three Excel employees are proud to be involved with the St. Jude Pekin to Peoria Run, and they plan to continue. Nevertheless, they look forward to the day when a cure has been found and they don’t have to run anymore. St. Jude’s founder, Danny Thomas, once said that “No child should die in the dawn of their life.” If you’d like to become involved with the St. Jude Runs, please visit their website.

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