Before losing her battle with acute lymphocytic leukemia at age 11, Karen Lawrence asked her family to continue helping sick kids.
Since 1979, the Lawrence family has hosted a fundraising 5k, the Karen Lawrence Run, in her memory. They also volunteer for organizations that help sick children and their families, and have been involved with Ronald McDonald Charities of Greater Chattanooga since the local house opened. In 2014, they made RMHC the sole beneficiary of the 5k.
As the house kicks off its 30th anniversary this year, RMHC is hosting the 5k and rebranding it as the RMHC Run4Kids in Memory of Karen Lawrence. This year's run also honors Isaac Miller, a 10-year-old who, like Karen, was diagnosed with leukemia.
The Miller family has stayed at the house three times during Isaac's battle ongoing battle with cancer, with his parents alternating between staying with him at the hospital and with his siblings at the house.
In November 2019, the family learned Isaac's cancer has returned.
Funds from the RMHC Run4Kids will go to the Share-A-Night Fund, which helps provide a home away from home for families of hospitalized children like the Millers, said RMHC Communications Coordinator Bethany Ramsey. The cost to provide families with everything they need for a night is $75, according to the RMHC website.
The 5k is moving from its previous location downtown to Camp Jordan, which is allowing the organization to use the space free of charge. Holding the event at the park also allows more of the funds raised to go to the families served by the house, because it eliminates expenses such as security that were required for the downtown event, she said.
The Run4Kids timed 5k and 1-mile fun run are scheduled for Saturday, Jan. 18 at 2 p.m. Following the run, participants can visit the Celebration Village featuring family activities, music, kids' crafts and an appearance by members of the Chattanooga Red Wolves.
"I think it's going to be a great time," said Ramsey. "We're hoping it will become an annual event centered around families who've been involved in the house over the years, and a celebration of anything and everything Ronald McDonald."
Participants can register as teams or individuals in advance online at register.chronotrack.com/r/53289 or in person the day of the run. The cost is $25 per person for the timed 5k and $15 for the 1-mile walk.
Teams are encouraged to dress in their "Red, White and Ready" spirit gear, a nod to the Ronald McDonald House logo colors, as well as the striped socks available for purchase when registering.
Camp Jordan Park is at 323 Camp Jordan Parkway.
Email Emily Crisman at email@example.com.