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ONTO THE RIVER CITY

ALONG THE WAY– Dennis Cler, Andrea Schmid, Sam Cler and Andrea McBurney lead the Bloomington-Normal contingent toward Peoria as part of the St. Jude run on Saturday. All told, $10,391,014 was raised from 36 runs from various towns throughout Central Illinois (For the Journal/Kevin Callis).

BLOOMINGTON – In the end, hope beat anxiety.

Despite unemployment concerns in Bloomington-Normal and throughout Central Illinois, the St. Jude Telethon, including the McLean County portion of the annual fundraiser, raised record high amounts over the weekend.

Those include record highs from the St. Jude Runners, including the Bloomington-Normal-to-Peoria runners.

"We've had a lot of anxiety in this community with unemployment," said James Ingold, the chair of the McLean County portion of the telethon, as he cited job moves by State Farm. "But the people in Central Illinois proved once again how generous they are. When the need is there, they respond."

The St. Jude Telethon — which benefits research and services at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, Tenn., and its Midwest Affiliate at OSF HealthCare Children's Hospital of Illinois in Peoria — raised $10,391,014, an increase from $10,132,140 last year. Those numbers include $2,925,229 raised in McLean County, compared with $2,862,344 raised last year.

"Saint Jude is a product that people can invest in," Ingold added. "It's a mission that is successful and it's helping kids."

The numbers also include dollars raised during the weekend St. Jude Telethon and at 36 St. Jude Runs, as well as money raised in the area throughout the year.

According to run co-chair Dennis Cler, the 132 participants from B-N raised a record high $270,000.

"The need is still there," Cler said. "We will not be satisfied until the need is no longer there."

According to coordinator Dave Morr, the 60 Decatur-to-Peoria Runners raised $81,752 compared to $55,184 last year.

"We've got some fantastic runners," Morr said. "It's really meaningful when we run into Peoria and see the St. Jude patients and parents. That keeps us going to raise more money and get more runners."

In addition, two runs that involved Woodford County communities raised over $100,000, as the Eureka to Peoria churned out $130,275, while the Minonk to Peoria jaunt tallied $105,900.

This year, St. Jude this year will treat about 7,800 children with cancer and other catastrophic diseases, including about 200 from Central Illinois.

When St. Jude opened in 1962, the childhood cancer survival rate was 20 percent.

"Now it's getting close to 90 percent and we will not stop until its 100 percent," said St. Jude market director Mollie Shepherdson.

According to Shepherdson, included in the overall dollar figure is a record $5,393,908 raised by 3,200 runners who ran from 36 communities to the Peoria Civic Center to open the telethon on Saturday night.

"For runners, combining a love of running with support of St. Jude is a perfect match," she said. And, sadly, more people know children affected by cancer.

Among B-N runners were Meg and Merlin Anderson of Normal, who met a boy being treated for a brain tumor.

"We were thankful to be a part of it,” commented Meg Anderson of her involvement.

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