SEARCY — Rich Brown has a birthday this week, but burning off the calories from his cake won’t be a problem. On the day after he turns 52, Brown ran in the Arkansas Traveler, a 100-mile run through the Ouachita National Forest held on Saturday. The best part for Brown, however, is that with every step he took, he was raising funds for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
Brown, an associate marketing professor at Harding University, has raised $60,000 in the past decade for St. Jude by garnering sponsorships for his runs in the Memphis Marathon and the Arkansas Traveler 100. He said his association with the hospital started when he saw runners wearing St. Jude’s Heroes shirts at the Memphis Marathon and decided he wanted to be involved. In his first year running in the event, Brown recalled, he raised $6,000 for the hospital, which was the second-highest total that year.
“I’ve always known St. Jude was a good place,” he remarked. “Besides being the best in the world at research and treatment, they never send a bill. The poorest person in the world can go there and get treatment. … I love kids, and I hate cancer.”
St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis was opened in 1962 by entertainer Danny Thomas. In its early years, the facility focused primarily on treatment of pediatric cancer. The hospital has grown over the years to become a world-renowned source of research and treatment not only of cancer but other catastrophic childhood diseases as well.
St. Jude has developed protocols that have helped increase the overall survival rates of childhood cancers from less than 20 percent in 1962 to 80 percent today, according to the hospital’s website. The facility is said to have one of the largest treatment program for pediatric sickle cell diseases in the country and is active in the treatment of pediatric AIDS.
The best part about St. Jude, Brown noted, is the fact that no child, regardless of race, religion or a family’s ability to pay, is denied treatment. The hospital has treated children from all 50 states and around the world.
For his part, Brown increased his fundraising goal for the Saturday race from $2,500 to $4,000, and he hopes the tally continues to rise above that mark. He also plans to run the St. Jude Memphis Marathon on Dec. 7.
“If my running can motivate people to give, then it isn’t just a silly habit. It will be doing some good,” he said.
While he was a student at Harding, Brown said, he knew a professor who marked his 40th birthday with a 40-mile run.
“I thought that was really cool,” he said.
After reading more articles about people who used milestone birthdays as times to make long-distance runs, Brown said he decided that if he ever lived in a state that had such a run, he would participate. After moving to Arkansas in 2008, Brown made good on his plan by running the Arkansas Traveler 100 the very next year.
For three of the four years Brown has participated in the race, which is primarily on the forest roads and jeep trails of the Ouachita Mountains, he has been awarded a gold buckle, which is given to runners who finish the race in 24 hours or less.
The main goal of the event for Brown, though, is to raise funds for St. Jude.
“It makes you feel good to do good,” said Brown, who is a survivor of prostate cancer. “I have two daughters who are healthy, but if one of them had to go [to St. Jude], I would really want to know that people gave them support by helping St. Jude.”
Those wanting to sponsor Brown with a donation can do so by visiting heroes.stjude.org/run100richbrown.