St. Jude runners make trek to raise money for the battle with cancer

Runners head south along Fifth Street as they leave downtown Quincy Friday evening on the St. Jude Quincy to Peoria Run. (H-W Photo/Phil Carlson)
Posted: Aug. 1, 2014 9:10 pm Updated: Aug. 15, 2014 10:15 pm

Herald-Whig Senior Writer

Spencer and Nancy Waters feel honored to participate in the St. Jude Quincy to Peoria Run.

Spencer Waters was 2 years old in 1995 when he was diagnosed with cancer and went to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, Tenn.

"They cured me when I was 5 years old. They took me back for a tumor that was benign when I was 16," he said.

Nancy Waters was with her son every step of the way.

"I can look at my 21-year-old son ... and know that the research they learned from his type of cancer is helping other children every day," she said.

She credits St. Jude doctors as heroes and includes runners and donors in that category.

"These phenomenal runners have raised at least $750 a piece for the honor to run for the kids. So I'm always overwhelmed by that," Nancy Waters said.

The 10th run between Quincy and Peoria got started at 5:30 Friday. Nancy has participated in all 10 runs, and Spencer missed only one.

Seventy-six runners will make the 135-mile trip to Peoria in relay fashion. Participants will generally run one to two miles at a time and then catch a ride until they're ready for their turn to hit the road again.

Rich Meehan, one of the coordinators, has been on all 10 runs. He said support staff are an important part of the team effort.

"We'll have a total of 75 to 80 people making this trip, and there will be about 10 to 12 volunteers along with those runners. And it takes six RVs, two pickup trucks, a cargo van, a 15-passenger van -- It takes a lot of support to pull this thing off for 135 miles," Meehan said.

Several runners from Hannibal, Mo., started their journey at 11 a.m. Friday in front of the Tom and Huck statue. They met up with the Quincy runners for the rest of the journey to the Peoria Civic Center. There, they will meet runners from Memphis and many other satellite runs throughout the Midwest for the St. Jude Telethon.

In the first nine years, the Quincy to Peoria run has raised $586,700. All of the money raised goes to St. Jude.

This year's run is a family affair for Joe and Kathy Genenbacher and their children, Olivia and Brady.

"We're dedicating this run to Blake Genenbacher, who died Aug. 26," said Joe Genenbacher, one of Blake's cousins.

The family also will be thinking about Kristopher Schreake, who is battling cancer.

Kathy Genenbacher has been running for about 10 years and has participated in some marathons. She said her husband started running because he felt bad that she was doing something for her health and he wasn't.

Olivia, 20, laughed when she was asked how long she has run.

"When they make me," she said pointing at her parents. "I played soccer in high school, but now I'm running for a cause" in the St. Jude run.

Brady, 18, towers over his parents and admits that he would not be good at the kind of long distance runs his parents have made. He's going to Monmouth College to play football and thinks he can keep up with his parents in the one- to two-mile segments.

"Me and mom have probably been more competitive. She always used to think she could beat me, but she never did, so I just quit," Brady Genenbacher said as his mother rolled her eyes.

Joe Genenbacher said the family may joke, but they're emotional about the cause of fighting cancer.

"It means a lot to us because we've had cancer in our family, and we've watched someone close to us die of cancer. It means a lot to us that we can run for those who can't," Kathy Genenbacher said.

Spencer Waters said patients at St. Jude never pay a dollar for the care they receive. St. Jude also treats the entire family, not just the patient. Staff members helped the Waters family give the attention needed to other children who might have felt left out.

Nancy Waters said St. Jude workers also let her know that Spencer would "take our emotions and fears" and would be looking to his family to understand how he was supposed to cope.

One thing will remain the same during the trip to Peoria: Nancy and Spencer will be there with each other, every step.