When Ives decided to train for his first marathon, the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon Weekend was an obvious choice because it raises funds and awareness for St. Jude. This was his opportunity to show gratitude to the clinicians who cared for his daughter, and to show support to other families going through tough times.
Ives’ commitment to running the marathon also created an opportunity for family and friends to contribute to the cause. Tasha immediately got involved in the fundraising aspect, organizing a website to invite donations.
A group of supporters named itself Team Ivestrong, a joke Sydney had come up with using her Livestrong Foundation bracelet.
“She’d cover up the L and say, ‘We’re Ivestrong,'" Ives says.
The race itself exemplified themes of community and support.
“One of the things St. Jude does now in all the races is they have arm bands for bereaved families and patient families. It’s purple for bereaved families, gold for patient families. That way you can recognize one another,” Ives says. “If you run next to another runner with a purple band, you do a fist bump to show solidarity.”
Dean says being among other runners who were there for the same reason helped drive him, even when the course got tough.
“I remember the struggle of hitting the 18-mile mark. My heart rate got high, and I had to slow down, but I had people I didn’t know who were like, ‘C’mon, you can do this,’” he says.
And then there was the thought of Sydney.
“Sydney was fighting cancer. These kids are fighting cancer. They’re fighting for their lives. I can push and go farther and farther,” Ives says.
'It’s About Community'
It was happenstance that brought Ives to Fleet Feet. He was sitting in an airport when he saw a sign advertising that his local store was looking for help.
“I thought it would be a fun side job,” Ives says.
After getting to know both the company he worked for and the community it served, he approached his managers to see if Fleet Feet would officially sponsor St. Jude through its race events.
“ALSAC, the fundraising arm of St. Jude, caught wind of this, and they asked me to help coach the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon in Nashville. I said, ‘I have no idea what you mean by coaching, but I’m a great cheerleader.’ So, I jumped in and took that role,” Ives says.
Meanwhile back at the store, Ives says runners who have heard his story have started fundraising campaigns of their own to benefit St. Jude’s. He’s touched when they tell him they’re running for Sydney.
“I tell them, ‘By raising money, you’ve helped my family. My daughter was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Because of donations, she lived 18 months. I’m forever grateful for those 18 months,’” Ives says.
Ives also is grateful for the perspective—and, later, the platform—running has given him. Now a Retail Experience Manager and running coach for his store’s training programs, he motivates runners of all backgrounds to use their strength to overcome challenges on and off the trail.
“It’s not always a kid with cancer; everyone’s got trouble. If I can help escape that with a run and bring some joy, that’s success in my book,” Ives says.
By Caroline Dohack. Caroline is a Missouri-based writer and editor. Although she will never break the sound barrier – much less a race record – Caroline loves the opportunities running affords her to meet new people and explore new places.