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St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital has, for decades, helped children of all ages battle cancer and other catastrophic diseases, and locally, one child has received the help of not only this hospital, but the New Albany community as well.
Preston McKinney has been a patient at St. Jude since he was diagnosed with cancer at the age of one. Developing from a brain tumor and spreading into his spine, McKinney was given little hope of survival, but through the hospital, the now 10-year-old has been cancer-free for eight years.
As part of the annual St. Jude 5K, half marathon and marathon run every December in Memphis, running groups known as HERO groups are formed with the money raised going toward the treatment costs for a child at the hospital. This year, a local group will sponsor McKinney, bearing the name “Preston’s Pit Crew.”
The Pit Crew currently consists of 47 members, most of whom are from New Albany and Union County. Amanda Kent is one of those choosing to run for this cause and noted this is the largest group of participants for a HERO group from the community.
“We’ve had several running with us that have run before with other HERO teams in the area, but this is the largest, I think, we’ve had, and it’s the first time all of us are running for a specific person,” she said.
Helping organize and lead the group is Tonya Jackson, and Kent said that through her work, the group has taken off and continues to grow, working toward their December 3 run.
Kent also said that the choice of running for McKinney was an easy one, as he has inspired so many through their church.
“We all go to Hillcrest Baptist with his parents (James and Dawn), and we thought of him,” she said. “We’re hoping in years to come we can continue to do this for many more in our community.”
The group will continue to raise money for the race through sponsorships and other fundraisers, and they also welcome any new runners that wish to join in the coming months.
Individual spots in the St. Jude race are no longer available, but if you would like to run as part of the Preston’s Pit Crew HERO team, you can talk to either Kent, Jackson or Madonna White for more information.