After 24 Years, Lauren’s Run is Still Growing Stronger
“Weave me a rope that will pull me through these impossible times.”
When Janis and Marvin Zagoria lost their beautiful curly-headed little girl to cancer, they didn’t know what to do. As they searched for ways to cope with their loss, they decided to get to the very heart of the problem of childhood cancer by raising funds for pediatric cancer research. Lauren’s Run was born. Initially it was held at Zoo Atlanta because visiting the zoo was Lauren’s favorite activity. Little could they know they had begun weaving together a rope that would guide many through impossible times.
“Our family rallied, and the community rallied around us. We had so much wonderful support; we were just stunned and grateful,” Janis Zagoria said.
That support has grown. The community has grown and the rope is stronger.
Another Lauren was diagnosed with the same cancer. Lauren Kochman was 16-months-old when her fight against neuroblastoma began. After what started as a textbook treatment, sweet Lauren’s immune system became compromised due to the chemotherapy and her little body succumbed to the disease. Her family knew that they were also called to fight and joined the Zagorias in memory of their Lauren.
Along the way, a larger community joined the effort as the race turned into a day of family fun by adding the CURE Annual Picnic after the event. This larger community is not simply those affected by a childhood cancer diagnosis. Some runners are touched by what they see and have come back for years. Many vendors begin by donating time or service, but once they experience the day, they make it a point to return year after year.
Folks Southern Kitchen has been bringing fried chicken and smiles for 20 years. Amusement Masters has lined the field with inflatables for 20 years. Our balloon artist, Mr. Me, has been delighting children with his creations for that long and JJ Jardina has been supplying bananas for a decade. Our DJ, Nate, has been leading the party for 10 years and shows up with energy at 5 am to set up – even when he is coming off of a late Saturday night of work. There are many more people who work hard to make this a special day.
The rope is stronger.
And what does the day mean to Atlanta’s childhood cancer community? Over the years it has become a vehicle for families to remember children we’ve lost, honor those who’ve survived, or rally their fighter’s support against a common enemy. The grounds are full of teams wearing colorful shirts boasting their child’s name. For some it has become a public celebration of life and a way to share their child’s memory in a tangible effort to make a difference as teams raise money toward the goal of eradicating childhood cancer once and for all.
But it isn’t a somber occasion at all. It is always a joy-filled day of smiles and laughter. All families affected by childhood cancer are invited to partake in the picnic free of charge.
After last year’s storms, blue skies were a welcome sight for the 24th running of Lauren’s Run. With the great weather, it is no surprise that the times were fast. It was a day for the young with 19-year-old Matt Burgess winning the men’s 5k with a time of 18:08 and 16-year-old Maddie Wheatly taking the women’s crown at 22:25. A full searchable list of times is available here:
A full gallery of pictures can be found here:
This year’s 24th running eclipsed $300,000 for life-saving pediatric cancer research. Over the years, Lauren’s Run has now raised over $4 million – an amazing testimony to the two brave girls who inspired it.
As they gathered at the zoo 24 years ago, Lauren’s parents could never have imagined what Lauren’s Run would come to mean to the community. It is truly a rope that pulls many through very hard times.
Next year will be a very special 25th anniversary and you are invited to be a part of the celebration.