St. Jude Expo & Heroes Pasta Party

Friday was an eventful day starting with a tour of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and ending with the Heroes Prerace pasta party. When I tell people that the St. Jude Memphis Marathon is my favorite event of the year I always include that the experience is made by attending the pasta party the night before the race.  This dinner in 2012 was the reason I decided to never miss the event as long as it is in my control.  Hearing stories from survivors and families, meeting other fundraisers, and celebrating the dawn of life for the patients at St. Jude is an indescribable feeling.

After meeting a college friend for lunch at St. Jude we joined up with our fundraising team for a tour of the hospital’s campus.  We learned of the history of St. Jude, talked of the incredible things that happen on campus everyday, and the remarkable work that is being pushed for future developments.  I had the chance to take this tour in 2012 also.  Now there is a fundraising minimum to be able to tour the hospital, one that I recommend shooting for.  One of the highlights of the hospital hallways is the ABC’s of Cancer display.

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After the tour we took a quick bus ride to the race expo. The expo was held right along the Mississippi River at the Cook Convention Center.  A big enough space to contain the event.  We walked right in to bib pickup and there was no line, no wait, but also no bibs.  Brooklyn & I were told our bibs were in the “VIP Packet Pickup” Area, presumably for Heroes.  So we went from 0 people in line to waiting over 20 minutes in line to snag our bibs. I don’t understand.

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Once we had our bibs in hand we made our way around the expo.  There are some really great things at this expo that you don’t find elsewhere.  The giant St. Jude letters from RnR Nashville were there along with a blown up version of the ABC’s of cancer where runners can add their own thoughts.  A local car dealership has a vehicle there and every year the car is covered with the names of all the Heroes of the weekend. How can you not dig around and find your name?

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We went around and visited with some of our favorite vendors.  Stopped by the Pro Compression booth for a new sock supply, visited with Nuun Hydration for a Cherry Limeade shot, and stopped by the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon booth where they had the 2016 New Orleans Medals on display.  I really love the design this year, but that’s a post for another day.

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After spending a few hours visiting with friends around the expo hall we went out to get in line for the pasta party door opening. We had reserved tables near the front with our fundraising team, a nice change from the back of the hall where I’m normally sitting.  Thousands of people come in all at once for dinner, but the lines always move smoothly and quickly, I’ve never had a complaint.  The first hour is for eating and visiting, the second hour features speakers telling stories.  During the first hour I found a friend from Instagram and met her, that’s Nicole in real life!

IMG_2228 There was a display screen showing tweets and posts with the #StJudeRun, apparently St. Jude was glad that I got to meet Nicole too!

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The CEO of ALSAC, Rick Shadyac, came on to stage to talk about the race weekend and the impact is has on the hospital.  As a team the St. Jude Heroes raised $8.1 Million, enough to keep the hospital operational for 4 days. That really puts in to perspective how much of an undertaking it is to raise the $2 Million+ necessary to keep St. Jude functioning on a daily basis.   Then the parent of a patient came on to stage to tell the story of her son.  It was emotional, it was inspirational.  One thing she said that I held on to for the race and for the weekend, and hopefully will continue to carry with me.

“Running is hard, but cancer is hard too.”

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