Support St. Jude and its long-distance supporters

Times-News editorial board

At the age of 4, a young girl should be living life to the fullest — free of the stresses and trials of an ordinary adult life.

The child should be full of smiles and curiosity. She should be running about with her friends, learning how to enjoy the simpler things in life.

When she is sick, she should be able to stay home with mom or dad, tucked into a warm blanket while watching cartoons. A warm bowl of soup should make her feel better. And, within a couple of days, she will be back outside running around and playing with her friends.

If one spends just 30 minutes watching Tess Swearingen be a kid, the only thing that would make one wonder if anything was wrong is the lack of the beautiful blonde hair she once had.

Swearingen, of Morton, is currently undergoing treatment for Stage IV Neuroblastoma with the help of St. Jude, as well as the support of her community. Though she may not be aware that she is not living the ordinary life of a youngster, her parents, sisters and extended family members have kept a huge smile on the little girl’s face.

Sure, she is treated with a gift here and there. And, she receives extra attention while she fights a relentless sickness. But, anyone who knows the youngster would say she deserves more.

That is what makes the efforts of St. Jude so important. The children’s hospital provides much needed services and treatment to a girl who knows so little about her struggles.

As the St. Jude telethon approaches, 12 dedicated Morton runners will make the four-day trek from Memphis, Tenn., to Peoria in support of St. Jude beginning July 28. Their reasons for doing so span beyond keeping themselves healthy — it is about helping keep others healthy, as well.

We will have a feature about the runners and why they make the long-distance trip to Peoria in next week’s edition of the Morton Times-News.

Through a conversation with one of the runners who tattooed the St. Jude Memphis to Peoria Run logo around his ankle, it was learned that, at least to him, it is not about being able to run for himself. It is ALL about doing it to raise thousands of dollars each year so a young child can know that he or she will one day be able to do the same thing.

It’s not only the runners from Morton who deserve residents’ support, but those from all around the area. If residents have not had the opportunity to donate to such a worthy cause, there will be a grand opportunity during the St. Jude telethon, beginning at 6:30 p.m. Aug. 1. The telethon will be televised on WEEK-TV.

The organization needs support from the local community. But, more importantly, youngsters like Swearingen deserve the community’s support. And, so far, it has been overwhelming.

Keep it up — though Swearingen has not forgotten how to smile, there are days while she undergoes treatment when it is nearly impossible.