Racing for Cures
The Devils River Run for Hope is a Marathon and Half Marathon race across the beautiful West Texas wilderness to benefit Brooke’s Blossoming Hope for Childhood Cancer Foundation, a 501c3 nonprofit that serves children battling cancer worldwide. But truly, it is so much more...
What would you do if your child was suddenly diagnosed with cancer? Your child who loved to run free in the great outdoors... who loved nothing more than being carefree in the wind turning over rocks to search for fossils and picking handfuls of wildflowers?
What if cancer took away your child's ability to run, walk, or even stand… suddenly and without notice?
This is exactly what happened to little Brooke Hester at 3.5 years old. Unbeknownst to her parents, her legs went from a funny walk, to a limp, and ultimately to unbearable pain as they carried her around helplessly to the doctors trying to figure out what was wrong.
Then a word exploded in Brooke’s life like the worst kind of bomb any parent can receive.
“Brooke has cancer.”
Stage IV... neuroblastoma cancer... or in layman's terms, cancer of the sweat gland... that had fully metastasized into her tiny bones. Brooke's strong legs were no longer able to bear the pain of walking because her bone marrow had become infiltrated, completely packed with cancer – from her skull to her toes.
As you can imagine, her parents were utterly shocked. In fact, neither of them even had anyone with cancer in their families. At the time, Brooke was their only child and their lives, their careers, their graduate studies, their EVERYTHING changed, permanently. Then for the next nearly 5 years, nonstop, they watched their little girl helplessly fight for her life.
But that isn't what they saw. They didn’t see a helpless child.
They saw tenacity.
They saw resilience.
They saw joy through the sorrow and laughter through the tears.
They came to see their remarkable daughter, a child raised on a large ranch in Texas, blossom right through it all. Brooke wasn't just strong... she wasn't just a fighter, SHE WAS A WARRIOR.
Children with cancer are beyond brave. Little Brooke, had so much love poured over her, it was the only world she knew. She knew nothing of hate. All she knew was selflessness… compassion... gratitude... giving forward. Cancer took her life and completely turned it upside down. It took strong legs that loved to run down the beach splashing in the waves and turned them as helpless as a mermaid's tail.
Slowly, the therapies she began to receive restored her ability to stand... to walk... and yes... even to run again.
Brooke received a multitude of treatments available to her at the time. Her parents watched helplessly as chemotherapy burned her body from the inside out, and then for the first time in months, WALK again grinning ear to ear of her freshly bald head. She was gone from home more than at it – in the hospital most of the time. They took her wherever the hope was, even to New York City where received the most hopeful, yet painful antibodies known to battle her kind of cancer that also flagged every single pain receptor in her body. She endured harsh radiation and radiotherapy that made her so radioactive that she had to be in a hospital bed behind a lead wall for 3 days solid with her parents wearing Geiger counters pinned to their shirts as they took turns caring for her reaching the daily maximum of radiation that the doctors would allow parents of children undergoing such therapies to be exposed to. Yet… her cancer resisted. Brooke went from what was going to be a "kitchen sink" chemo plan and her parents desperate to find gentler, more tolerable options for therapy, discovered something new and promising.
Finding New HOPE
They found precision medicine with Dr. Giselle Sholler, a leading expert pediatric oncologist and researcher. Brooke became the 3rd child in the world to have her cancer targeted by the genetic mutations causing it to grow. Dr. Sholler helped Brooke find a better quality of life in her fight in the search for her cure. Brooke ran, she walked, she swam, she jumped on her trampoline, she loved her swing and bicycle (and riding horses), she tap danced, ran through the waves at the beach and… she picked wildflowers.
Ultimately, the years of harsh therapy Brooke received before finding the targeted therapy precision medicine provided made it too difficult for her weakened bone marrow to recover. She was 8. She was sent home with no more options. By then she had a baby brother and an unborn baby sister she had named. But Brooke continued on… well, just being Brooke.
During her short life, Brooke inspired a movement for kids cancer. Through the nonprofit formed in her honor and during her fight, she began reaching thousands of other kids with cancer providing them headwear. After all, Brooke lost her own hair 7 times in her fight. She and her parents began raising money for critical life-saving yet heavily underfunded research for pediatric cancer. Now hundreds of thousands of dollars have been donated and children with cancer have been reached.
Brooke's love for other youth with cancer had grown to the level of global impact. She had a viral video, had walked the carpet at Paramount Studios (more than once), graced the stage at Carnegie Hall, inspired an author to write her story, sang the national anthem acapella freezing cold down on the ice rink of the American Bank Center with a voice of gold that penetrated every ear that heard it among the crowd of 8,000 before the hockey game. She stole the microphone from Grammy award winning artists, got to play and explore on a Broadway stage, hang out with Rockettes, and even show Taylor Swift her port before allowing her to give Brooke a gentle hug. She became inspired by greatness beyond words, and by runners of the New York City marathon one morning as she emerged from the small room she and her mother lived in for a year at the Ronald McDonald House of New York. She cheered for special friends running the Disney Marathon and for those that ran in her honor every year at the Brooke Hester Hustle up in Fort Worth that is now going on the 11th year of families walking and running to help kids with cancer. BROOKE INSPIRED.
She STILL INSPIRES. Her foundation that began just months after her own battle with cancer continues to grow and impact hundreds of thousands of other kids with cancer across the globe. A dear friend recently wrote, “Even from heaven she is bringing smiles to others. She remains the special soul and selfless spirit that she was on Earth.”
Brooke truly left a legacy.
Shoes to fill… much too big for her parents alone.
A Beautiful Destination
Brooke’s fight, her life, her strength, her love of running around and most especially being outdoors, is what inspired this race. Brooke didn’t get the chance to experience the Devils River in her lifetime, but as much of a nature enthusiast and rock hound as she was, her parents have much happiness in knowing how much she would have deeply loved this hidden gem of West Texas. And at night.. Brooke, who wanted a solar system party when she turned 5, would have loved the stars of this dark sky sanctuary too.
Local time: 5:15 PM
So to describe this as a one of a kind off-road destination race beginning at the banks of the pristine spring-fed turquoise ribbon of Devils River carving the desert landscape and trekking through the natural beauty of the fossilized ruddist reefs forming the hills of this vast, remote and quite untouched West Texas landscape…. Simply is not enough.
Be ready to experience the rich natural sights, sounds and fresh smells of desert blooms in the spring air along the trail that is a convergence of diverse ecosystems! Runners participating in this special event will be supporting the ongoing grassroots efforts of a small volunteer-led charity began by Brooke herself that remains focused on bringing happiness and hope for children with cancer worldwide. Before she left this earth at age 8, Brooke made a selfless birthday wish to raise $80,000 for her last birthday. Her wish was met and exceeded, and because of events like this and compassion and tenacity of others, her wishes of helping other kids with cancer to find happiness and hope continues to bloom and grow.
So, in addition to getting to run across a vast, rugged landscape, any runners who raise $1,000+ will also have the opportunity to have their registration fees waived in knowing they have helped carry on Brooke’s life-long legacy of helping kids with cancer.
Race entry is limited to the first 70 who register! GO!!
For more information, visit www.DevilsRiverRun4Hope.com or on social media @DevilsRiverRun4Hope
VISIT WEBSITE FOR MORE EVENT DETAILS HERE: https://www.devilsriverrun4hope.com/event-details-1
Or to learn more about Brooke's nonprofit effort go to www.BrookesBlossoms.org