PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -- If you were hoping to lace up your running shoes for all those foot races that happen every fall, well, some of those plans will be getting dashed, starting with the "Run to Fight Children's Cancer." This year marks a pretty big milestone, 10 years of this event, which is the largest fundraiser for the plight of childhood cancer in the state of Arizona. But this year, teams are preparing for the race to look completely different, for the first time in its history.
With an "angel" on their side, a very enthusiastic group of kids and classmates gather in a small neighborhood in south Phoenix to support a friend, and a big cause. "We usually walk here to here, and sometimes we go around our neighborhood," 10-year-old Angel Carden tells us, as he explains the ways in which he and his friends practice for the big race.
And, with all the spirit in the world, "Team Angel" has already mapped out their around-the-block racecourse. Due to COVID-19, the "Run to Fight Children's Cancer 2020," will be virtual. "We want to keep everybody safe," Executive Director, Patti Luttrell of the Children's Cancer Network, tells us. "We want to have a great time, and we still want to unite, so we've done it virtually."
That means instead of gathering at an event that has historically attracted thousands of runners, walkers, families and supporters, and racers will be asked to register or make a donation online and then enjoy their team run or walk from a safe distance, in their own neighborhoods. Here’s the plan! All registered participants will run, walk, jog (or virtually participate from the couch) in a 10K or 5K. It will be a course of your choice, at a time you choose, from Sunday, Oct. 11 through Sunday, Oct. 25.
You may choose to complete this goal alone, as a small group, or a team with your own social distancing measures in place. Then, to get, "credit" so-to-speak the Children's Cancer Network is asking that you include them along the way, virtually, through photos, videos, stories, and or quotes. You'll submit your photos online, and even tag them in your posts. There will be prizes and recognitions given out that you'll definitely want in on. Mark your calendar, because "Spirit Week" begins Sunday, Oct. 18, which each day of the week featuring a different theme, and ends with a virtual celebration at 10 a.m. on Sunday, Oct. 25. Participants are encouraged to check the website often.
"There are awards for best start line, best finish line, best costume, most spirit," and much more, Patti explains. And, for all the information on how to register and participate, visit https://www.runtofightcancer.com/
Meanwhile, one of those most spirited, might just be team leader, Angel, who, while donning a superhero cape, rallies his troops with energy and excitement for their own private and special run. But, two years ago, it was a much different story. Angel gave his parents a scare of a lifetime, after a day of baseball in 2018. "He started to have seizures later on that night that wouldn't quit, that's kind of what triggered it," explains mom, Ashley Carden. "Initially we thought he was bitten by a scorpion, but by the time we did take him into the emergency room, and they did a CT scan, they were clearly able to see a large mass in the back of his head."
Angel was diagnosed with a late-stage brain tumor. His battle was daunting, having to relearn how to talk and walk after a number of surgeries and rounds of chemotherapy. But, Angel isn't alone. According to the Children's Cancer Network, each year in the United States, 15,000 children are diagnosed with pediatric cancer, with a survival rate of more than 80 percent. Yet nearly two-thirds of the estimated 600,000 young survivors nationwide experience serious or life-threatening effects of cancer as part of their new normal.
Today, Angel, who is somewhat of a "come-back" kid is thriving. He's back to playing with his friends, and participating in sports again, especially baseball and basketball, his two favorites. Angel is now two year's cancer-free, and was chosen to be this year's virtual honorary race starter. Typically, the race starter gets to blow the horn at the run. An important job, for an important kid. This year, as the honorary virtual race starter, you can watch Angel virtually unite the cancer community in a video on Sunday, Oct. 18, on https://www.runtofightcancer.com/.
His reaction to this news, priceless.
"What did you think of that?", I asked him. "I didn't really know what it was, but my parents told me, and I felt honored." Very well said, and an honor fit for a super-hero.
The cost to participate in this year's "Run to Fight Children's Cancer" is $45. All race proceeds stay in Arizona and benefit families through the Children’s Cancer Network and Phoenix Children’s Hospital. For more information, to register for the race, or to learn about fundraising opportunities, visithttps://www.runtofightcancer.com/,or visit "Run to Fight Children’s Cancer" on Facebook.