With this month’s theme being “Food and Culinary Arts,” I thought I could offer some food for thought. One essential “food” that nourishes our community is the generosity of people and organizations who give of their time, talent and treasure to build a stronger and more vibrant quality of life. In particular, I will comment on three initiatives: Peoria Promise, the Mayor’s Roast for Charity and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
Nourishing Education & Human Services
On September 27, 2019, Peoria Promise held its 11th annual gala to raise funds to reimburse student tuition for attending Illinois Central College. Our goal was to generate $500,000, which would put us close to $5 million raised since the program was announced in 2007. (Because the deadline for this article precedes the gala, I’m unable to provide exact figures.) There is no question that Peoria Promise changes lives. More than 3,000 students have completed the program since it began, and I’m pleased to note that 70 percent of participants remain in our area to live, work, become involved in worthwhile endeavors, and support economic development. Those were the program’s goals when it launched, and I’m proud we are living up to that promise.
In just a few days (October 9, to be exact), many of you will attend the fourth annual Mayor’s Roast for Charity, helping to raise funds for local human service organizations. This year’s recipients include Dream Center Peoria, Sophia’s Kitchen and Camp Hope for local St. Jude patients. When we launched the Mayor’s Roast in 2016, one of our first considerations was: Who are we going to roast? This year’s roastee will be none other than Washington Police Chief (and former Peoria County Sheriff) Mike McCoy, whose heart of gold helped launch the St. Jude Memphis to Peoria Run and who tirelessly raises funds for the organization.
For those who haven’t attended the Mayor’s Roast, let me assure you it is an evening of wholesome fun, camaraderie and celebration of our shared dedication to help those in need. I’m personally grateful for my friend Mike McCoy’s willingness to be “roasted.” I suspect he’ll have some pithy rebuttals that will evoke quite a bit of entertainment! Though we’re close to a sellout, I’m sure you can still get a table if you’re interested.
Helping the Kids of St. Jude
Besides personally participating in every Memphis to Peoria Run (the only person who has), Chief McCoy has helped start other initiatives for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, namely the motorcycle ride (St. Jude Rides) and Corvette drive (St. Jude Drives) from Memphis to Peoria. Through just these three events, he has helped raise upwards of $75 million for the kids at St. Jude. Truly amazing!
This year marked my silver anniversary of running in the St. Jude Memphis to Peoria Run. I don’t know the exact amount my 25 years of participation has raised, but that is not the point. The point is the thousands of kids whose lives have been saved and whose families’ prayers have been answered. Each year, we begin the run by visiting the hospital and professional staff, doctors and patients who deal with the reality of life itself. To look into their eyes and hear their stories is all the incentive we need to continue running until the last pair of shoes has worn out. In 2019, our Memphis team raised over $1.15 million—and when we include the 34 satellite runs, over $5.7 million was raised for St. Jude kids.
As mayor of Peoria, I am of course supportive of the many other area organizations that help kids and their parents deal with health and related illnesses. I congratulate Easterseals Central Illinois on its 100th anniversary, and acknowledge the good work of OSF HealthCare Children’s Hospital of Illinois, Pediatric Resource Center, Ronald McDonald House and many others. Let us continue to share our personal resources and talents to provide essential food for the body and soul of our community—the people who call Peoria and our neighboring communities home. PM