TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) — Topeka native Steve Sodergren is finding his purpose when it comes to running marathons.
He said the reason why he runs is for the kids who are fighting pediatric cancer at the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
“I had known a lot of people who were affected by cancer,” Sodergren said. “But I didn’t have anybody specific when I got involved with St. Jude.”
Sodergren’s journey to running for patients at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital started in 2016 in Memphis, at the St. Jude Marathon. He had been running marathons for more than 10 years, but it was a girl named Abi who gave him the motivation for running.
“At mile 20, we came upon a little girl who was a patient at St. Jude,” he said. “And she was out cheering with the runners in her wheelchair, giving high fives. There was just something about her that drew me to her.”
From there he found his passion in fundraising for the hospital: running in 50 marathons in all 50 states. This past November, he crossed the finish line in New York as he joined a list of few people who have actually completed all 50 marathons.
It’s something St. Jude calls a St. Jude Hero. But Steve doesn’t see it that way.
“I don’t know what a better term would be,” he said. “But I do often cringe when people call us St. Jude Heroes.”
To him, it’s the kids who are battling cancer every day through courage and strength who deserve the title.
“They teach us all how to live, I think,” he said. “They’re going through some of the most horrendous things that a person could ever experience. And yet, those kids…their courage. That’s probably the main characteristic of being a hero.”
So if you see Steve running in Topeka, just remember, he’s not doing it to be a hero. He’s doing it for the kids at St. Jude who are showing strength and courage, like a true hero.
Steve said running all those marathons can get tiring, but it really is the kids who keep him going.
Since they can’t be with him on every run, he wears their names on a shirt to get to the finish line.
“All I have to do when I hit that point, which is an inevitable thing in a 26.2-mile run,” Sodergren said. “All I’ve got to do is look down at all those names on that shirt.”
His shirt is signed with every kids’ name he’s met who has been to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.