There has been an annual run in the Illinois Valley that has taken place in more consecutive years than any other run in the area.

For 35 years, the La Salle/Peru to Peoria St. Jude Run has featured hundreds to thousands of area runners taking to the paths in efforts to give donations to the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

The NewsTribune caught up to the run’s first year co-coordinator and La Salle native Joe Edgcomb to discuss how his wife, Juanita, the other coordinator, and he, became involved with the run and the benefits to the run for children in need.

NewsTribune: What got you and your wife Juanita involved with the run?

Joe Edgcomb: I was at the Walleye Run in Spring Valley and I saw a sign for the Peru to Peoria run. I thought, ‘That sounds fun.’ I got involved in the running aspect of it. When I got married to Juanita, she also got involved. I’ve been involved for 14 years and she has been involved for seven years. She will run this year and due to age, I’ll probably be a can shaker, help out the volunteers in anyway they need help and run a few legs.

NT: How did the connection between La Salle and Peru, Peoria and St. Jude’s Hospital begin?

JE: When the run started, it was actually the Memphis to Peoria run. The main St. Jude Hospital is in Memphis. That’s how it all started. Other cities such as La Salle/Peru, Chicago, St. Louis, the Quad Cities and everywhere else joined.

Chris Christensen was one of the original founders of the La Salle run.

NT: Do you recruit runners to join the run or how do you get people involved?

JE: We try to recruit runners every year because that’s the big thing. It’s the first weekend in August, so it’s generally pretty hot. As the day goes on, runners get a little weaker. We try to have plenty of volunteers. Every year, we try to find everyone to find one runner. Not everyone does, but every year we get four or five new runners.

NT: How many runners do you have for this year’s run?

JE: This year I think we have about 35 runners and about 60 volunteers.

NT: How are the donations for St. Jude raised?

JE: We do different fundraisers. We had a steak dinner fundraiser at Jake’s Pourhouse, dueling pianos in January and a dinner fundraiser at The Right Spice (on Wednesday).  

We ask each runner to individually raise $1,000. If they can’t do it, we obviously don’t tell them, ‘No, you can’t come.’ We just ask them to raise what they can. Any little bit helps. The community fundraisers help out, so if each runner doesn’t have $1,000, it’s still raised somewhere. This year, our goal is to raise $65,000. It’s kind of a higher amount for us, but we’ve been doing a lot of hard working fundraisers. In 2017, the run went over $1 million in total donations given by the La Salle-Peru to Peoria run.

We did that in 33 years, that was pretty big for us considering when the run started, there were about 10 people between runners and volunteers. We’ve come along way.

NT: What motivated you to go from runner to co-coordinator with Juanita?

JE: I wanted to get out of the running part because of age — I graduated La Salle-Peru Township High School in 1995. We had some people step down, so someone had to step up. My wife and I felt that we could take the reigns and do whatever possible for the run.

NT: What do you think a run like this means for people in this area to give back to something that has effected the Illinois Valley?

JE: We have four families involved with the run that have patients currently at St. Jude or have recently been at St. Jude. You talk to them and they say the same thing, ‘We can’t believe how everything is put together, organized and how giving it is.’

You go down there and everything is taking care of — all expenses. They try to make it as easy and comfortable for you as possible. When we get to Peoria they day of the run, we’ll see kids from the hospital. They don’t have a care in the world. They know they’re sick, but they’re happy and running around.

Here we are worried about petty things like the heat outside. You see these kids happy as can be and it opens up your eyes. Every year I go down there, I tear up.

NT: How do people reach you if they have questions to join the run or would like to donate?

JE: We have a Facebook page, La Salle/Peru to Peoria St. Jude Runners or they can contact me at (815) 228-0582.

Brandon LaChance can be reached at 220-6995, or sports@newstrib.com, Follow him on Twitter @NT_LaChance.

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