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Running for a cause: Sam Day Foundation's Buddy Run raising money for pediatric cancer research

Twenty runners are running 12 miles in honor of a buddy battling cancer. The Sam Day Foundation has raised over $44,000 to research "forgotten" pediatric cancers.

PORTLAND, Ore. — Lacing up his running shoes and pounding the pavement is something Evan Altorfer is learning to love.

“I would love to be playing basketball or playing football, but running is what I can do now, and it’s definitely grown on me,” he said.

The reason why he runs? Well, that comes easy. “If a cure comes out of any of these dollars, that’s a lasting impact that’s well worth the effort,” said Altorfer.

Evan is one of 20 runners that will stride toward something bigger on Saturday. The Sam Day Buddy Run will take off from Doernbecher Hospital and after 12 miles, wind up at Terra Linda Park. It’s all an event put on by the Sam Day Foundation, an organization laser-focused on raising awareness of lesser-known pediatric cancers.

“Every runner is running in honor of a particular kid and the funding that they bring in will go to research,” said Lorna Day, the foundation’s executive director.

Anna Grace Pelson from Grant’s Pass, is one of those kids.

“As of right now, I will end chemo in exactly 12 days, so I’m super excited about that,” Pelson said on Tuesday. “The hardest part was probably losing my hair, yeah this is actually a wig but it looks pretty good,” she grinned pointing to her head.

With strength in her smile and sense of humor, Pelson was diagnosed with osteosarcoma in February. “They removed about nine inches of bone and here’s my scar…and in place of that is a metal prosthesis.”

Credit: Pelson Family

Her prognosis is very good. Surgeons were able to remove all the cancer from her body.

Day works to supports kids like Pelson and their families. Not only is she the executive director of the Sam Day Foundation, but more importantly, she’s Sam’s mom.

“Parenting books would have called him spirited,” Day laughed.

Credit: Rich Cruse (provided by Sam Day Foundation)

When Sam was 9 years old, he was diagnosed with Ewing sarcoma. A tumor found in his left leg forced an amputation below his knee and after a relapse about a year later, part of his right foot too. That was followed by another year of hard treatment, and more tough news.

Credit: The Day Family

“Was all-clear for just a couple of months, then developed tumors in his lungs, and those never went away,” Day said.

Sam passed away at 15 years old, one week before he was supposed to start high school. “Sam taught us to dream big, laugh often and live well," Day said. “Every day that you have hope is 100 times more tolerable than a day you don’t have hope.”

So far the Sam Day Buddy Run has raised over $43,000, and everyone involved is willing to go that extra mile. “To see the way that the Day family really rallied around Sam and has committed to making positive impact is something I wanted to be a part of,” Altorfer said.

Through her treatment, Pelson had felt a similar effect. “This has definitely changed me and I want to be able to give back to all the people who have helped me throughout my treatment and just my whole experience.”

Lorna acknowledges the dark days her family has been through, but she doesn’t regret her hope one bit. “I have a hard story,” she said. “But I’m chronically hopeful and we want the Sam Day Foundation to be a place where families feel like it generates some hope for what they’re going through as well.”

It's too late to run in this year's Buddy Run, but you can still participate. If you would like to donate to the Sam Day Foundation, or a runner/buddy team, follow this link.

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