“It was a channel for grief and surprise, and a way to fight back,” said Sharon Marston of Glen Ellyn. The Jack H. Marston II Melanoma Fund was established in July 2004 after the untimely death of Sharon’s husband, Jack, at the age of 47. He had been diagnosed only nine months earlier with melanoma. “The disease was so quick to take him,” she said. “There were many ups and downs but we thought he was going to beat it. When he did pass away it was a surprise to many in the community. Everybody wanted to do something.”
At the time, Sharon said, there was limited awareness about melanoma, and little research. “People in Glen Ellyn like to jump in and help and do whatever they can when something like this happens,” she said.
Friends and family coordinated the This Run’s for Jack 5k as a fundraiser, thinking it would be a one-time event. “We put it together in only seven weeks, and raised more than $50,000,” said Sharon. “People asked us to continue to do the event, and that’s what sparked us. We thought we’d do one more, and then one more, and now we’re in our twelfth year.” The event draws approximately 2000 participants each year and raises $50,000 annually. “We’ve donated $300,000 to research, and work hard to create awareness about melanoma,” Sharon said, explaining that they have educational initiatives and distribute sunscreen for sports programs throughout Glen Ellyn. They also support academic scholarships to area students.
The 5k has “spun off” to marathon teams, said Sharon. “We’re an official charity for the Chicago and the New York marathons. We’ve had a team in Boston too. And people will form their own teams for events including the Marine Marathon, Kentucky Marathon, and more.”
Awareness about melanoma and preventative measures has increased significantly over the past twelve years. “However, it’s still not something you hear as much about as breast cancer or lung cancer,” Sharon said.
Sharon believes that “somehow, someway, Jack is driving this charity. It just keeps growing and I think he’s the reason that it is what it is. He’s the driving force,” she said. “I just spoke to a junior high school and said, ‘if my husband had beaten the disease, he’d be here speaking about it. That’s how passionate he was about beating this and helping others.’”
“So much that has happened has been because of the support of the community. This has helped my family heal, and now we reach out to help others. When you help others, you heal yourself. That’s what has happened here,” Sharon said.
The 12th Annual This Run’s for Jack 5k will be held on October 18 at Ackerman Park in Glen Ellyn. For additional information visit JacksFund.org. -Wendy Foster
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