The sun was out, the breeze was light; Saturday may have provided the perfect conditions for a morning run through the city, but one Gretna family gave the perfect motivation for it.
The inaugural Gretna Knox Out Childhood Cancer run started in Peterson Park on Saturday, hosting more than 350 participants in the first ever charity race in memory and honor of Knox Lewis, who lost his battle to cancer at 13 months old.
“I am blown away,” said Alexa Lewis, Knox’s mother. “I couldn’t believe when we had 300 register before the race.”
Lewis said 306 racers were registered before Saturday morning, with 50 more joining in the morning of the race. As it was the race’s first year, she said she was expecting maybe 150 people.
She said the race raised roughly $8,400 which will go towards the Metro Area Youth Foundation, an Omaha-based organization that assists families struggling with childhood cancer through financial and other means. Lewis said her family was one of the many to get financial help from organization.
Lewis said she is thankful for all the participants, as well as the Gretna Optimist Club, Anytime Fitness and Methodist Hospital for sponsoring the event.
“Because of them, I got to share Knox’s story and help fuel my mission,” she said.
Her son was diagnosed with Rhabdomyosarcoma, a malignant tumor of muscles that are attached to bones, at only 7 months old in April 2012. Due to his young age, Lewis said radiation treatment was delayed 12 weeks past standard protocol as radiation could have affected his growth. The Lewis family spent that July through September in Houston, where Knox was undergoing radiation treatment.
“We came home very optimistic,” Lewis said.
However, she said on Sept. 12, 2012, she found another lump in Knox’s groin, and soon after his health took a turn downward. The Lewis family lost Knox on Oct. 29, but his story remained.
“There was just something about Knox,” Lewis said, “he just loved life.”
Lewis said he was the most active of her three kids, and up until his passing, one would never know he was sick. She said he was also one to always interact with others.
“He liked to flirt with all the nurses,” she said.
Maybe it was this love of life, or maybe it was his big brown eyes, but Lewis said her son’s reach has extended far beyond the borders of Gretna, as people through Facebook and CaringBridge.com from throughout the country have contacted the family.
“People throughout the country would reach out to us and say how he change their life,” she said.
For example, on the morning of the run a woman from Grand Island approached Lewis to say how Knox’s story has made an impact on her and her family.
Lewis said she hopes to see the race grow as it continue s each year, already planning to host the 2014 Knox run next September. A golf tournament in memory of Knox is also being planned for later this year.
She said people can ask Anytime Fitness for more information on this tournament, which is set for September, as plans are further clarified.