500 Miles Across Texas To Honor Child Cancer Patients
For Sugar Land resident and 93Q morning radio show host Kevin Kline, it all begins and ends with the children battling cancer at Texas Children’s Cancer Center. It was one young patient four years ago that inspired him to start running, and it is for all the patients that he embarked Sunday on a history-making 500-mile run across Texas.
Kline left Dec. 20 from Dallas, and plans to begin at 7 a.m. every morning and running 10 hours a day for 13 days, making his way to the State Capital in Austin, the Alamo in San Antonio and ending on the steps of Texas Children’s Hospital in the Medical Center.
Kline is the president and founder of the Snowdrop Foundation, which raises money for Texas Children’s Cancer Center. The money supports the center’s work in pediatric cancer research, provides twice annual weekend excursions for patients, and awards college scholarships to pediatric cancer patients and childhood cancer survivors.
Kline started the foundation as a birthday present to the young woman, Chelsea, who was his inspiration to run his first marathon.
Kline was participating in his radio station’s annual fundraising event at Texas Children’s Hospital’s outpatient chemotherapy center in 2005 when he saw a young girl walk in. She walked over to a group of young children, all bald from the effects of the cancer treatment, and played with them for four hours.
Kline said he assumed she was a volunteer, noticing she had beautiful, long brown hair. During a break, he walked over to her and said he was impressed that she was spending her time helping the young patients, and she told him she was one of the patients, not a volunteer.
“I said you don’t look sick at all,” said Kline. “She said, ‘I’m not, I just have cancer.’”
The girl was 15-year-old Chelsea, who had been told she had only a 10 percent chance to live to see her 16th birthday because of a rare cancer. Chelsea did see her 16th birthday, but spent it in the hospital and passed away later that year. Kline served as a pallbearer at her funeral.
During her battle with the disease in 2006, she underwent a 28-hour surgery.
“I told her in honor of her ‘marathon surgery’ I would run a marathon for her,” said Kline, who ran his first marathon in 2007. After Chelsea passed away, he created the Snowdrop Foundation in her honor.
Kline relates everything about his 500-mile trek to children battling cancer – he says he will likely lose 8 to 10 lbs. during the 13 days as he runs between 7,000 and 9,000 calories a day, and look quite different in the end, not unlike the patients as they fight for their lives. He says the journey will have ups and downs, but it isn’t a race, he just needs to get from point A to point B.
“However long it takes,” said Kline. “Just like cancer patients. There are bumps along the way, nausea, complications, infections, but their ultimate goal is to remain positive and strong and get to the next point.”
He says the fact that he will run most of the time alone will mirror the isolation some young patients feel.
“When kids get diagnosed with cancer their friends stop coming around because they look different and the kids don’t know how to deal with it,” said Kline.
The ultimate goal of the run is to raise awareness of the Cancer Center and to raise $500,000 – twice what the Snowdrop Foundation has raised in its three-year existence. The money will be raised through corporate sponsors, individual donations, fundraisers from schools along the route and the sale of merchandise at the nightly stops, where there will be a “tent city,” food, music and the opportunity to spread the word about the work being done at the center.
Kline said he thinks many individual donations will come in after he finishes the run.
“There are a lot of people who don’t think I can do this,” said Kline. “Once we prove to those people how serious and passionate we are about this endeavor and that I have actually done it (the donations will come in.)”
Kline has dedicated a year to training for this endeavor, and has run the equivalent of seven marathons and three ultra-marathons since Jan. 1. The peak of his training was in October, when he topped out at 137 miles in one week.
He has gone through eight pairs of running shoes this year, which he is donating to another charity organization. He expects to go through three pairs of shoes during the 13-day run, and will auction those off to raise more money for the cause.
Kline said he started to get nervous a few weeks ago, when he realized what “a big torch” he was going to carry. He called Chelsea’s mother, and asked her if Chelsea was scared before she went into her 28-hour surgery.
“Her mom said no, because she knew what the outcome would be,” said Kline, an answer that eased Kline’s own apprehension.
During his training for the run, he ran the Grand Canyon, and talking about it leads him once again back to the children fighting for their lives.
“It was the hardest most grueling thing I have done, but it was also the most beautiful,” said Kline. “Obviously it’s the hardest thing they (the children) have done but when they get the news that they are in remission there are no more beautiful words in the world.”