St. Jude Memphis Marathon goes beyond raising money to fight childhood cancer

by: Kristin Leigh Updated:


This year’s St. Jude Memphis Marathon Weekend is expected to have a $20 million impact on the City of Memphis, which comes second only to the lives the research hospital saves with the funds raised during the annual event.

“It’s a way for other people to help St. Jude, to help people like me,” Chandler Howard, a recovering brain cancer patient, said Thursday.

Chandler, a high school student, was diagnosed with brain cancer in 2015. His family turned to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

“You think a hospital that treats cancer patients would be this grim, sad place filled with death,” Chandler said. “But no, it’s hopeful. It’s amazing. Everything is about quality of life and helping kids.”

Richard Shadyac, President of ALSAC, St. Jude’s fundraising organization, said race organizers never expected it to grow in popularity so fast when the first race was organized in 2002.

Trending now:

In its 15-year history, the annual marathon has raised nearly $60 million dollars for research and patient care at St. Jude.

“It's an astounding sum of money, to think that folks from across the U.S. will have generated close to $60M in support of our mission,” Shadyac said.

“We've come so far since we opened our doors in 1962. I the I think about how proud our founder would be today when we talk about survival rates having gone from 20 percent to over 80 percent.”

Shadyac and city officials also applauded the economic impact the annual race has on the City of Memphis.

“This city is so proud that Memphis is home to St. Jude,” Ursula Madden, the Spokesperson for Mayor Jim Strickland’s office, said. “It is one of our precious crown jewels.”

About 22,000 runners are registered to race this weekend. An estimated 44,000 people will watch and cheer from the sidelines. The crowd is coming from across the United States, and city officials say the race benefits the tourism industry.

“The importance of St. Jude Children's Research Hospital is the Memphis brand, and the growth of tourism through events like this,” Melvin Gibson, Executive Director of the Memphis Sports Council, said. “It has become one of the most important sporting events in Memphis, and the growth potential is unlimited.”

Raise organizers are expecting to raise $10 million during this year’s event, which will directly support a mission of curing childhood cancer.

“They cure you of cancer, and then help you back into life,” Chandler said. “Because of St. Jude, I’m going to be at the half marathon next year – running it.”