It started because a former Greenfield mother wanted to give back to the hospital that she believes saved her daughter’s life. On Saturday, June 4, the third annual St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital 5K Benefit will be held at the McClain High School track.
Melissa (Strain) Gargasz is a 1998 McClain High School graduate who worked as a family physician in Greenfield from 2009 to 2014. In August of 2013, she found out that one of her 14-month-old twins, Julie, had a brain tumor.
She was diagnosed and received treatment at St. Jude.
“She has been an outpatient there since and very lucky she only had to be an outpatient,” said Julie’s grandmother, Vicki Strain, who still lives in Greenfield with her husband and former McClain principal Dr. Dan Strain, and helps organize the 5K benefit.
Two years ago the Greenfield event raised $4,200 and last year it raised $3,800.
“A friend and patient of Melissa’s when she had a practice in Greenfield called and wanted to do something,” Vicki Strain said of how the event got started. “She said, ‘Everyone’s doing these 5Ks, why can’t we do one?’”
On the day of the 5K registration will start at 8:30 a.m. and the 5K will start at 9 a.m. The cost is $20 and includes a T-shirt and light breakfast. Registration forms can be found at the Greenfield library, Jett’s Pro Embroidery, and the Hillsboro library. Participants can also register the day of the race.
It is not a competitive 5K. Instead, all proceeds go to St. Jude so the hospital can help people like Julie.
“People can walk, run, just come out and watch, and they don’t have to finish the entire 5K,” Vicki said. “Whole families come and the kids have a great time there. There may be more kids that finish the 5K than adults. It’s just kind of a family fun time.”
A year ago The Times-Gazette published a feature story about the 5K and the struggles the Gargasz family went through in coping with Julie’s illness. At that time Melissa said St. Jude was responsible for giving Julie back to the family.
“We are so honored to be a part of something so amazing,” Melissa said. “Doing this for our St. Jude family has been such an empowering and healing part of our journey as a family. Our doctor at St. Jude said that (Julie’s) treatment is a marathon, not a sprint. So I took his quote and ran with it, literally, as a symbol of our family’s journey, to honor my daughters, and to give back to our St. Jude family.”
For more information call Vicki at 937-763-4352.
Reach Jeff Gilliland at 937-402-2522 or on Twitter @13gillilandj.