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Fighting for Friends

Friends Kiana Starstead, left, and Evy Keppers walk along the Osaugie Trail Wednesday in Superior. The two have organized a 1 mile walk/run to raise money for children with cancer, “Fighting for Friends.” It kicks off July 30 behind the McDonald’s on East Second Street. Maria Lockwood

The first step toward a walk to support children with cancer was taken on a Billings Park play date. Instead of looking through a microscope, hunting for dinosaur fossils or playing outside, third graders Evy Keppers and Kiana Starstead decided to tackle a bigger challenge.

"We were in my room and she said ‘What do you want to do?’ and I said, ‘How about we try to cure cancer?’" said Evy, 8. Deciding that sounded pretty hard, Kiana offered another option.

"I was like, ‘Why don’t we do a fundraiser?’" said Kiana, 9.

They spent three hours planning a one mile walk/run, writing a rough draft of a letter to Mayor Bruce Hagen, designing a flier and choosing a name, "Fighting for Friends." Then they went downstairs to tell Evy’s mom, Sheri.

Sheri Keppers was impressed with their well-drawn plan.

"I feel like they are really positive kids," she said. "They both have always been like that."

The girls aimed to raise money from the walk to buy toys for local children with cancer — things like board games, bubbles and markers — and fund research to stamp out the disease.

"It’s not fair that kids have cancer," Kiana said.

"They didn’t do anything to deserve it," Evy said.

Keppers helped them refine the letter and sent it to Mayor Bruce Hagen. The two girls were visiting Enger Tower in Duluth together when his chief of staff, Rani Gill, gave them the call.

"That was pretty awesome," Evy said. "She said yes."

The $25 fee for the event permit was waived and Lily Kline with the Superior Parks, Recreation and Forestry Department helped them set the event up.

"I think it was really sweet of the girls to come up with this idea and follow through with it," Kline said.

She’s put up fliers around the Government Center to rustle up interest.

"I think it’s a great idea," said Hagen, who hopes to participate. "It’s great that at such a young age, they have the vision not just for the community, but the well-being of people suffering from diseases such as cancer."

The girls have hung up more than 100 fliers and entered a float in the Fourth of July Parade to raise awareness of "Fighting for Friends." Two cancer survivors rode on the float — Elizabeth, 6, and Dexter, 9. Evy learned that Elizabeth was in a coma for three weeks when she was 4 and what it was like when Dexter got a bone marrow transplant.

"The day before the parade was his first birthday," Evy said.

"His rebirth day," Kiana said.

As with the rest of the process, the float was fueled by the two youngsters, who will be entering fourth grade at Cooper Elementary School this fall.

"We bought the candy and the balloons for the float but really they’re doing everything on their own," Keppers said.

The young organizers, who have been friends since second grade, have a sure vision for their event. When adults suggested they set up information booths, the girls declined. Did they want to sell T-shirts? Nope.

"You have to get a license to sell things plus you have to, like, if they don’t sell out you’re basically wasting money," Evy said.

Mini-donut vendors got the shut-down, too.

"Not for the first year," Kiana said.

They’re already planning to make it an annual event, something they can pass on to their kids.

"And then we might just sell it to the government," Evy said.

"Fighting for Friends" kicks off at 10 a.m. July 30 behind McDonald’s Restaurant on East Second Street. Participants will run along the Osaugie Trail to Barker’s Island. The cost to participate is $3 per person or $10 for a group of four. But anyone can run, regardless of their ability to pay.

"Come even if you can’t afford it," Evy said. "Even by coming, you’re helping kids with cancer. Even if you’re participating, you’re making them happy by doing this for them."

Their goal is to bring at least 1,000 people together for the event. Registration will be taken the day of the event. For more information, email at or visit the Fighting For Friends on Facebook.

The first 50 finishers will receive a pink carnation and water will be available for the participants. The proceeds will be split up — 25 percent will be used to purchase toys for children with cancer at Essentia Health, the other 75 percent will go to research. Donations can also be made to Fighting for Friends at Superior Choice Credit Union, 2817 Tower Ave.