The fourth annual Fighting for Friends 1-Mile Walk/Run to fight childhood cancer is July 27 at 10 a.m. at Bear Creek Park off Moccasin Mike Road. The cost is $3 per person or $10 for a group of four.
“And it’s free if you can’t afford it, because you’re still showing your support. That's the important part of it,” said organizer and Superior Middle School seventh-grader Evy Keppers, 11.
The event is handicap and stroller accessible; dogs on a leash are permitted. Participants get free water and a free bounce house will be set up for kids. T-shirts, baked goods and food will be available for purchase. It is family oriented and all-access, Evy said.
“A lot of families came last year and they had their own shirts made for a family member. They kind of brought their own little team to run it,” said Evy's mother, Sheri. “That was pretty cool.”
The Superior girl began holding the annual fundraiser at age 8. At the time, she didn’t know any young people with cancer.
“Now I’ve met a lot of children suffering from cancer and I’d like to say it makes me more motivated to know that I’m helping the kids, because I actually know the kids now,” Evy said.
She’s also lost friends to the disease. She got to know Dexter Ojeda and Nathalia Hawley of Duluth through Fighting for Friends. Both lost their battles with cancer -- Dexter in 2018 at age 11 and Nathalia in April at age 15.
“Which stinks, but it’s not like I’m going to stop,” Evy said. “If anything, it’s going to make me keep going.”
In its first two years, the Fighting for Friends event raised nearly $10,000. About 400 people attended the third run/walk in 2018, which pulled in another $6,000.
Every year, 70% of the money is earmarked for research into childhood cancer through St. Baldrick’s Foundation. Another 20% is used to buy items for the Erick Peter Person pediatric cancer center at Essentia Health. And 10% goes to children fighting cancer like Dexter and Nathalia.
This year’s recipient is 4-year-old Kaya, who is battling B cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Evy hasn’t met her yet, but she’s been texting with Kaya’s mom.
“They seem like really good people,” Evy said. “This little girl, Kaya, let me tell you, she sounds like such a strong kid.”
To date, Evy and her family have put up about 100 posters around town. They’ve been impressed with the support they’ve received from area businesses -- everything from free food and half-price T-shirts to help with insurance.
“A lot of them I’m extra grateful for,” Evy said. “We don’t even ask them. They’re just, ‘Yeah, I want to donate.’”
Some offered to help when they saw the flier. Others reached out through the Fighting for Friends Facebook page. All are appreciated.
“I like the fact that it shows her instead of me telling here there’s good in the world, she gets to see firsthand how good our community is,” Sheri Keppers said.
Online donations to St. Baldrick’s are already coming in. People who can’t attend the run can donate to the “Fighting for Friends” account at the Superior Choice Credit Union on Tower Avenue as well. Evy said she hopes to continue to grow the event, maybe even adding locations in the future.
“Maybe when I’m like 70 I’ll give it to my kids,” Evy said. “I’d like it to keep going as long as possible. Hopefully, it will grow into something bigger.”