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Gorgeous weather made the perfect backdrop for the 30th annual Lauren’s Run & Picnic, presented by AutoNation. This special race brought together 1500 participants, many of whom have been personally affected by pediatric cancer. The spirit of the event is always so special as the community comes together to honor fighters, remember those children we’ve lost, and celebrate survivors. Two young survivors not only beat cancer but also medaled at Lauren’s Run.

Ella Nelson was seven months old when she was diagnosed with Langerhans cell histiocytosis or LCH. The fight against cancer caused significant growth delays. She had to have intense speech therapy until she was three years old. But she is a picture of resiliency and is now ahead of where she should be developmentally. But now she is eight and loves to run. Ella has run the 2k at Lauren’s Run, but this is the first time she has run the 5k and she came in second place in her age group.

Jackson Fenchak was also diagnosed with cancer as an infant. After a fourteen-hour surgery and chemotherapy, Jackson was declared cancer-free. Over the years, he has had several foot surgeries. In fact, his foot is now made of a cadaver bone! Which makes it all the more amazing that he is an accomplished cross country runner. He brought his speed to Lauren’s Run, finishing first in his age group and 20th overall.

Lauren’s Run & Picnic is so much more than just another run. The picnic that follows is epic for the children and the whole family. There were so many activities to choose from – a row of huge inflatables, crafts, games, music, face painters, balloon artists, and more. But it wouldn’t be a picnic without food, and that was covered. Our good friends at Chicken Salad Chick brought delicious meals and gladly served all afternoon. There was also delicious food from Jimmy John’s, Dunkin’, Bad Daddy’s Burger Bar, and a special addition this year of award-winning barbecue.

Duval Semi Trailers has been a great supporter of CURE for several years through their DST Gives Back program. This year, they volunteered to bring their cooker trailer to Lauren’s Run & Picnic. They set up the day before the race and began cooking delicious BBQ that truly gave the picnic a homespun feel. The date marked Vice President Danny Carroll’s 50th birthday, and his family and the DST team surprised him to celebrate him and serve.

“Our entire team that was there cooking has been changed forever,” Danny said. “We absolutely loved being there, and we all did it with complete joy in our hearts.”

Families were also moved. Nathan Samples is in the middle of a fight with leukemia, and his mother, Morgan, said. “These events are so important because they raise funds to help CURE fund research and care for families. But they are also so important because they give families like ours a “break” from cancer. There is an understanding among cancer families, and it’s a relief for our whole family to be surrounded by others who have fought or are fighting a battle that none of us would choose for ourselves and certainly not for our children.”

This year’s Lauren Zagoria Champions for Children Award was presented to Sam and Gary Alexander and the Northeast Atlanta Chapter of the National Charity League for their longtime dedication and tireless service to children with cancer. Through the support of so many sponsors, donors, volunteers, and participants, more than $315,000 was raised to support childhood cancer research. We are thankful to all who played a part in making the 30th annual Lauren’s Run & Picnic an incredible success.