Comer Children’s Hospital Hosts 20th Annual “Race for the Kids,” Raising Almost $300,000

After 393 Chicagoans ran a 5k across campus, children ages one to 14 participated in shorter events Sunday morning to raise money for research on pediatric cancer and other illnesses.


Zachary Leiter

Children off to a fast start in the Kids’ Mile

By Zachary Leiter and Audrey Goodlick

The University of Chicago Comer Children’s Hospital and the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) hosted the 20th annual “Race for the Kids” to fundraise for pediatric medical research on October 16. This was the first time the event had been hosted in person since 2019 due to COVID-19. 650 people registered to run—both at the event and asynchronously—and contributions totaled $288,000, surpassing fundraising goals by more than $10,000. From this and other similar events, RBC helps raise $35 million in support of children’s causes globally each year.

UChicago Medicine President Thomas Jackiewicz stood on a stage in Harper quad and talked to the crowd about improvements in pediatric medicine. “Fifty years ago, the survival rate for pediatric cancer was less than 10 percent. But with major advances, [now] over 85 percent of children diagnosed with cancer are becoming long term survivors. Our amazing team of cancer specialists at Comer are helping to make this happen…We take on some of the most challenging cancer patients who are considered too difficult to treat at other pediatric hospitals,” Jackiewicz said.

UChicago Medicine Chair of Pediatrics Dr. John M. Cunningham reiterated Jackiewicz’s statements. “I’m very proud to be a member of The University of Chicago Medicine…The groundbreaking research [being done] at Comer Children’s Hospital makes our institution very special in this city, in this region, and in this country,” Cunningham said. He explained that proceeds from the race and other Comer fundraisers go towards research on not only leukemia and other cancers, but also intractable epilepsy, inflammatory bowel disease, peanut allergy, asthma, preterm birth, and diabetes types 1, 2, and monogenic. 

“I want to thank the physicians, the scientists, the nurses, all the respiratory therapists, and everybody who’s actually working here today. I can tell you [that] in that hospital at this moment, we have 165 beds, and they are 165 beds full of children,” Cunningham said. 

He emphasized the importance to Comer of caring for the children of Hyde Park and the South Side of Chicago. “We have probably one of the most challenged populations of children in the nation,” Cunningham told The Maroon, “and so the money we’re using is not just focused on basic science research, but also on clinical and outcomes research, [understanding] the reasons for trauma, and how trauma actually affects children…We have one of the highest rates of penetrating trauma in the nation. So in other words, there are more children who are shot here than anywhere else, probably in the country, and so it’s crucial to actually understand how to take care of those children.”

“We are…a hospital for every child across Chicagoland,” he continued, “but we’re also [specifically] a community hospital for the children that are in [this] community. We have multiple programs that are funded by this event and other events that really improve child health on the South Side. So we know we are part of this community, and we are committed to this community.”

Cole Johnson, who moved to Hyde Park in 2014 to work at the Polsky Center, shared many local runners’ appreciation for the event. “The running community is pretty small and tight in Hyde Park,” Johnson said. “The weather is usually great, and the event brings together a lot of good people from Hyde Park. Now [that] they’ve finally paved the midway, it’s actually nice to run on the road, so that makes a big difference.” Johnson finished in the 5k with a time of 19:31.

Angelica Marks, who works in commercial real estate for the University, agreed. The race, she said, is “a beautiful chance to see and run through Hyde Park.” 

“I think this is one of the best 5ks in the city,” Marks added.

Many runners brought their families along to the event, citing the significance of the cause, the importance of solidarity, and the opportunity to get their children out of bed on a Sunday. After adults and teens ran in the 5k, there was a one-mile event for children ages seven to 14. The adults ran from the quad past Saieh Hall and Ida Noyes, west along the Midway, and back east out to Stony Island, before returning to the center of campus and finishing the race through Cobb Gate. The children ran an abbreviated version of that course for the mile. After the mile, there were two 50-foot races for children aged one to three and four to six.

UChicago College student Michael Nelson won the 5k with a time of 18:19. All three top finishers in the event were under 20 years old. 

Daniel Brown of Pure Insurance—a sponsor company for “Race for the Kids”—has supported the 5k for years, but this was his first year running. He finished 21st, with a time of 22:14. “It’s great with the kids running by you, they have unlimited energy,” he said.

Ophelia Harris-Shaw, 11, won the Kids’ Mile with a time of 7:25. Henry Byrn, eight, finished just behind. Ten-year-old Isabel Chen decided to run in the 5k and finished 215th of 393. She said that she “had a good time, but was also super tired.” Chen said she runs the event every year. For Auggie Mun-Rose, who ran in the mile, however, it was his first ever race. “I love running, [but] I had to wake up pretty early,” Mun-Rose said. “And,” he added, “I think I’m pretty fast, [but] I don’t have a speedometer.”

Joaquin, six, took speed to a whole new level. When asked whether the kids’ dash was difficult, Joaquin said no, he was too fast for it to be hard. 

Overall, the mood at the event was serious but celebratory. Mascots roamed Harper quad, high-fiving children: RBC’s lion, the Chicago Sky’s mascot “Sky Guy,” and Comer’s own mascot “Remoc.” (Remoc is Comer spelled backwards). As the day progressed, both the crowd’s excitement and the sense of community grew. “The enthusiasm around [raising money] for Comer Children’s Hospital and kids’ care in Chicago is just fantastic…the more people the merrier…post-COVID, everybody being back out together really makes a huge difference,” Jackiewicz said.