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Guest Blog by Makenzie Thornton, Niece of a MFJ Grant Recipient

Below is a blog written by Makenzie Thornton, the niece of Move For Jenn grant recipient Staci Vredeveld about her experience of supporting a loved one through a sarcoma diagnosis and subsequent amputation.

Makenzie and her Aunt Staci at the Move For Jenn Pajamas All Day 5K/10K in October of 2022.

"A hurricane comes barreling through my family in 2020 causing mass destruction, but everyone knows that after a storm, comes a rainbow. Mid-July at the beach my mom gets a call from my aunt. We could tell something was wrong because of the shaking in her voice. My aunt had a large mass on her foot for over a year and she had just gone to the doctor to find out what the mass was. But the news was heart wrenching, she had a rare form of cancer called sarcoma. This form of cancer has only affected 30 other people around the world. My Aunt Staci was of the rare anomalies to develop this cancer and ultimately had to have her left leg amputated below her knee.

Staci is a very active, independent person; she was a runner, not a very fast one, but still a runner. She loves being active, going to the gym and taking care of her farm animals.

After hearing the news about her diagnosis and seeing what she was going through, I knew I wanted to do something to raise awareness and support her. Cancer affects everyone whether you are the one that has been dealt the horrifying hand of having cancer or the people that care about you.

This is where I came up with the idea of starting a charity race, 5K or 10K,  to raise awareness and money for those who should be in the spotlight. Setting up the race the first year took quite a bit of planning, deciding where to have the race, what the distance of the race would be and how to get the word out to people. I also have designed a 'Stepping Up For Staci' race shirt that features her tattoo of the running turtle. Each year the turtle gets a new color of running shoes. The race is held throughout my neighborhood with the community coming together to support and volunteer to make this a great event.

This year, 2023, will be the third annual race. Donations go toward the foundation,  'Move for Jenn' which is also the foundation that has made Staci's participation in the race possible because of the generous donation of a running blade. Staci running in the race brings so much light and happiness because she is demonstrating that when you put your mind to anything and work toward any goal, it can be accomplished.

Staci has portrayed how to be a strong woman; when you get knocked down you can always get back up again. No, her situation was certainly not ideal, but in spite of this tragedy, she has changed my outlook on how to live my life tremendously and has helped me to grow into a better person. Putting on the race every year provides me with hope because people are willing to put their own plans and responsibilities aside on Thanksgiving to come out to support a great cause, they are spreading the word and educating others on sarcoma. The ability to bring people together has made me more confident in people; there are good people all around us."