Lawrence team running in honor of childhood cancer survivor raised over $20,000 for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital

photo by: Contributed Photo

Sarah Burrichter, front-center, is pictured in early 2020 in Lawrence with some members of the "Sarah is Our Superhero" running team. Burrichter's mom, Kristine Burrichter, is pictured to her left. Team captain Lisa Leroux-Smith is on the right in the back.

Kristine Burrichter and her friends have been giving back to the organization that saved Burrichter’s daughter’s life through fundraising and running in the St. Jude Memphis Marathon.

Burrichter and her friends had always enjoyed running, but for the past five years the group — which is continuously expanding — has run with a purpose: to help other families receive the same care Burrichter’s daughter, Sarah Burrichter, got from the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

Due to the pandemic, this Saturday will be the first time since 2016 that Burrichter and her friends will not travel to Memphis for the marathon. Instead, they will take to the streets of Lawrence in bright orange shirts, superhero capes and Wonder Woman headbands for the virtual event. There will be about 25 people running for the “Sarah is Our Superhero” team.

“It is an unbelievable feeling and a true testament to a lot of the people that surround me in my life that they are willing to sacrifice time with their families and themselves to help support something that’s very important,” Burrichter said of the group. Not only is St. Jude an organization that’s especially important to Burrichter, but it’s also touched her friends in a way that has “brought us all together in a very unique circle,” she said.

Lisa Leroux-Smith, the team captain, said when she first went to Memphis for the marathon, it was because she had set a running goal. But once she experienced the campus and atmosphere, she was sold on the mission.

“Part of the race goes through the campus of St. Jude and there are sick children out there and their families are high fiving you or holding up signs or cheering,” Leroux-Smith said. “You only have to do that once and you are sold…It’s all about the spirit of that place and how that event is supported and what they do with the money that we raise.”

photo by: Contributed Photo

Kristine Burrichter (front row, second from left) and other members of the “Sarah is Our Superhero” team are pictured after the 2019 St. Jude Memphis Marathon on Dec. 7, 2019.

Including the funds raised this year, the “Sarah is Our Superhero” team has raised over $50,000 in the past five years for the Memphis hospital, which treats childhood cancers and pediatric diseases and never sends families a bill. Burrichter’s daughter Sarah was diagnosed with a brain tumor at the age of 4. Though she received her last round of treatment in 2014, Sarah, who is now 16, is still frequently monitored by the hospital.

This year, prior to the pandemic, Burrichter and three other members of the team registered as Platinum St. Jude Heroes, meaning they would raise $20,000 together in honor of Sarah. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, they worried that they might have made a mistake.

In past years, the team raised money through performances or other events with large crowds. This year, they had to get creative, team captain Lisa Leroux-Smith said.

The women sold masks and cookies. Around Easter, they did an “egg my yard” fundraiser where people paid them to put eggs in their yard early on Easter morning. They participated in the Sertoma Club of Topeka’s rubber duck race. On the 25th day of each month for around three months, they did a social media campaign where each woman tried to raise $25.

By September, Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, they had surpassed their goal. The team has currently raised more than $21,000.

On Saturday at 7:30 a.m., the runners will start at the Starbucks on 23rd Street, run toward Haskell, take the Burroughs Creek Trail, go up into North Lawrence, down Massachusetts Street and back towards Starbucks for the finish. There will be one person running the full marathon, groups walking and running a half marathon and some people running a 10k. Ad Astra Running, 734 Massachusetts St., will be providing a water station for the runners.

Burrichter said she wanted to thank everyone who has supported the team this year through their donations, and that she gives back to St. Jude in order to make sure other families receive the same opportunities they received.

“I want to give back what we’ve benefited from and make sure there’s an opportunity for any other family like ours that has a child that gets diagnosed with cancer,” she said. “Their mission is really just something that a lot of us should aspire to — not to look at the financial side of things but just to always think about what is the cause and root of what we are trying to achieve,” she said.

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