Leave A Legacy Foundation run returns Oct. 2 with some changes

Meghan Flynn
Garden City Telegram
A group of runners and walkers participating in the 2019 Leave a Legacy events make their way toward the finish line in front of the Heartland Cancer Center. After a year off of in-person races due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the popular event returns to Garden City on Oct. 2.

The Leave A Legacy Foundation's annual run returns Oct. 2, but with some changes.

The biggest change is the 10K is gone and they have added a half marathon.

It's now called the Leave A Legacy Spirit 5K and Heart Winkin' Half Marathon. 

Katie Unger, Leave A Legacy Foundation vice president, said they wanted to draw new people from other regions with the change. 

"We already have some runners coming from eastern Kansas coming to run the half marathon that have never participated in our race before that are coming for that," she said. "We would love to draw from Oklahoma and Colorado as well and just bring them or have them come to Garden City and experience our southwest hospitality and the charm of Garden City, so, we're excited for that."

Also new this year is something called "winks" along the runs route, Unger said. There are five of them and they are in honor of loved ones of foundation members or who were part of the foundation who have died.

The race will take place on Oct. 2 beginning at 8 a.m. and ending around noon at the Heartland Cancer Center. A pancake feed will follow for race participants.

Final registration and runner bag pick up will take place on Oct. 1 from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the cancer center. Unlike in previous years, there will be no registration on race day.

Registration costs $35 for the Spirit 5K and $75 for the Heart Winkin' Half Marathon. People can register on the foundation's website, whodoyourunfor.org

Unger said the run began in 2007 as a way for a group of friends to keep alive the memory of Laura Kleysteuber, who died of brain cancer in November 2006, and to make a difference in the community. 

The mission of the foundation is to strengthen the cancer fighting resources in southwest Kansas, Unger said. The run helps fund that mission.

One way the funds are used is through the foundation's Greatest Needs Fund, which is used to help cancer patients pay for their medical bills, Unger said. 

"We also give gas cards if they have to receive treatment – like if they're coming from Liberal or they're coming from Ulysses," she said. "People don't think about a gas card just to help them in their travel. A lot of times the don't just have treatments one day a week, they might have to be over here three days a week or you have to travel, like Laura did."

While Laura received her treatments in Garden City at the Heartland Cancer Center, she did have to travel out of the area to see her oncologist, Unger said. Others may experience the same thing.

In addition to the Greatest Needs Fund they do something called Laura's Touches, where once a month they do things like take gifts to the cancer center, gas cards and gift cards for coffee or restaurants.

This past month they gave little coffee cups with gift cards to Scooter's Coffee, Unger said. 

"We've done grocery bags full of non-perishable grocery items like spaghetti and things that they could make and then added a Dillon's gift card so they could go buy their meat or produce or whatever," she said. 

Also with Laura's Touches, once a month they do what they call Fill the Fridge, where they provide snacks, juice and water for patients and caregivers at Heartland Cancer Center. 

The foundation has also used the funds assist in purchasing things for St. Catherine Hospital, Unger said. They were a large contributor for a digital mammography machine and have helped pay to implement the lymphedema program. 

Cancer prevention is something the foundation also promotes and the foundation has held multiple cancer screenings in Garden City and Ulysses, Unger said. If a patient that came to the screening needs further testing or are referred, they have helped with those medical bills.

"We fully believe and support prevention and getting screened, we see the value in that," she said. "Our goal is not just for Garden City patients, it's for southwest Kansas. The need, we're just seeing such a large need. It's so sad that so many people are affected."

Unger said the run has grown over the years from about 90 runners the first year to over 1,000 at the last in-person race in 2019.

Even during 2020 when the race was only held virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic they had over 700 registered runners, Unger said. She's proud of the support the community shows to the foundation and their mission. 

"We say this all the time and I think we still stand by and believe it to be true, that we have the best support in this community," she said. "The community rallies around us and support us in a way that's unbelievable ... It was still amazing that even in the midst of COVID we saw generosity and the support. It just humbles us and it truly is amazing."