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‘My Cancer Hero’ was a runaway success

They came by the dozens, the tall and the small, young and old and every age in between. On a picture-perfect Saturday morning in downtown Greenville, participants came to walk, run, jog and just concentrate on that finish line ahead as part of the sixth annual “My Cancer Hero” 5K Run/Walk.

The event, founded and sponsored by State Farm Agent Abbie Gardner Ballew and her office staff, saw nearly 75 folks sign up, their registration fees all going to the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life here in Butler County. Family members and friends were also on hand to cheer on their favorite walkers and runners.

Coming in first place for the overall competition was Troy Zacchini,

with young Bryant Ballew not far behind in second place.

Female and male winners in each age division were as follows: Ages 10-19, Kate Slagley and Logan Skipper; ages 20-29, Katelyn McDonnell (no male entrant); ages 30-39, Alicia Sexton and Jeremy  Johnson; ages 40-49, Leah Skipper and Chris Little; ages 50-59, Michelle Myrick and  Keith Gibson;  ages 60-69, Christy McIntyre and Mike Arthur, and in the 70-Plus division, Ron Pierce, age 82, earned both the medal and the respect of all involved.

Many of those participating wore their special “My Cancer Hero” t-shirts, with the names of all cancer heroes printed on the backs of the shirts.

Participants walked and ran in honor and memory of parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, siblings, spouses and friends who had both won and ultimately lost their cancer battles.

“We want to remember and we also want to celebrate today,” said Ballew, who lost her own father, State Farm Agent Jimmy Gardner, to cancer, spurring her own to create the 5K fundraiser.

Youngsters at the event were entertained by a genial National Guardsman who led his troops through hula hooping, Frisbee and corn hole toss and other activities during the race. The nine-and-under crowd wasn’t left out of the athletic competition, however. A special “Fun Run” held on a short stretch of Commerce St. allowed all the small fries to earn their own shiny medals.

A pancake breakfast with bacon/sausage and orange juice awaited the participants, courtesy of Ann Judah of the Camellia City Bakery in downtown Greenville.

Even COVID was not able to stop “My Cancer Hero” organizers in 2020, leaving it one of the few annual events that didn’t take a hiatus due to the pandemic.

“We were able to hold this event literally two days before everything shut down last spring,” Ballew told the crowd. “We don’t know exactly what we are doing in terms of our county relay this year. The ACS home office is still saying only virtual events right now. But all the monies raised today will definitely be going to the American Cancer Society.”

Ballew expressed her appreciation to her State Farm family—Missy Cawley, Fleta Richard, Kimberly Garlock, Hattie Lawson and Brittany Cook—for their steady support of the annual fundraiser, from the planning, registering, and organizing phases to the setting up and tearing down on event day.

“I have to thank my State Farm team and really, the entire community for their support for this event year after year. We don’t have ‘sponsors’ as such, but we sure do have a lot of great friends,” Ballew said.

“I hope to see everyone back here in 2022 for the 7th annual My Cancer Hero 5K.”