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Walking to help those in battle

Kelly Johns looks down at a sheet of paper with more names than she would care to see.

Stephen Burrows. Lucas Whithead. Tyler Bonhenkamp. Savannah Weston. Brandon Rausch. Breanna Ivester. Sam Santhuff. Summer Warren—children in the area who received a cancer diagnosis and are currently undergoing treatment or are in remission.

Her eyes then fall on the list of children she calls, “angel babies”—Robinesha Jackson, Tyler Harris, Alexis Henson and her son, Walker Henry Johns.

These names are the reasons Johns says the fourth annual Memorial Run/Walk with Walker is scheduled for April 19 at Farmington High School.

The event, sponsored by the Walker Johns Childhood Cancer Foundation, an organization started by family and friends in 2012 as a way to honor the memory of Walker and assist local children and their families in the fight against cancer.

The event includes a 5K and 10K run, plus a one-mile walk. New this year is a “Little Knight Fun Dash”—a 100-yard dash for children up to age 7 held at the finish line.

The cost is $25 for early registration for the race or $30 on that date. The fee to participate in the walk is $15. Early registration will guarantee a race shirt.

There are sponsorship levels for local businesses or organizations wishing to contribute. Contact Johns at 760-4496 or for more information.

Representatives from Siteman Cancer Center in St. Louis contacted the organization, expressing an interest to be a part of the April event. A medical professional will be at the high school that day, answering any questions and handing out information.

A silent auction is scheduled as well on the day of the walk.

Walker was diagnosed with leukemia on July 29, 2010. In April of 2011, a group of family friends hosted a benefit walk/run as a way to help the family with expenses incurred during his treatment. Walker died on Nov. 3 of that year, but the mission to help others in similar situation would carry on.

Last year’s event raised around $20,000 and Johns said every penny goes to the families.

“The money we raise will help the families of these children pay for gas, food, help with bills. There are so many ways to help,” Johns said.

Funds are also used to purchase perks for the children the family may not be able to afford.

As she reads off the names of the children who will be helped, she pauses to say, “it’s too many.” Not because of what it cost to help the children.

Instead, it is the cost of a childhood spent battling a disease and the toll it takes on their bodies.

Johns said she gets the name of the children in the most random ways. It can be a text message from a family friend. There are social media sites she runs across set up for local children.

While she doesn’t hope to hear more names, she wants to get the word out about how the foundation is there to help.

Through events like this—along with other fundraisers throughout the year—the foundation has helped around 10 children and their families.

Johns thinks not only about the child going through treatment, but their siblings as well.

Tyler Harris’ brother, Caleb, will be designing the shirt for this year’s event. Johns said their mother, Corrie Stevens, is an immense help to her.

Johns said the two are expected to receive a donation from the St. Francois County Ambulance District to purchase tablets for older children to take along when waiting for treatment.

“They will be in memory of Tyler and Walker,” Johns said.

Information about the walk/run and other information can be found on Facebook at “walk/run/ride with Walker.” The website is also being updated for additional information.

Shawnna Robinson is the managing editor for the Farmington Press and can be reached by calling 573-756-8927 or

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