LUMBERTON — Some walked around the pond or paid a dollar to play a game of Ring Toss, while others brought sweet treats or donated auction items. But all “gave from the heart,” and that’s exactly what Gail Jacobs wanted from Saturday’s Christian Hearts Walk-a-Thon to benefit St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
The event lasted from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Luther Britt Park and raised money for St. Jude, which specializes in pediatric medical research and treatment. It featured a variety of attractions, from bouncy houses to face painting to carnival games. Items strewn across a table, from potted plants to a child’s rocking chair to a bicycle, were auctioned off. Live entertainment filled the park throughout the day.
Attendees paid a cash donation to take part in each of the attractions or to get refreshments.
Jacobs, the coordinator of the event, said Christian Hearts set a goal of $10,000 when it began raising money in October. When the event began Saturday, it had raised about $5,400 and tha figure was about $8,000 by the end of the day.
“When we checked everything and it was over $5,000, that was just awesome. It was so awesome,” she said. “I know, Robeson County, it’s small … but St. Jude’s hospital is a good cause.”
Jacobs said she has donated to St. Jude before, and the hospital contacted her last year about putting on an event. For Jacobs, who battled bone disease at age 7 and had to wear leg braces for four years, helping sick children is something the takes personally.
“I had to get medical attention from a hospital. My parents could not afford it,” she said, adding that it was the Shriners who paid for her care. “When they called me from St. Jude, I was like, ‘This is a way for me to give back, to help.’”
Jacobs recalled not being able to ride the “regular” school bus because of the braces.
“When I see children that are sick … I know how they feel, because I was one of those people too,” she said. “When I walked into a store, when I rode the handicapped bus, somebody looked at me. … I’m blessed. I have three healthy children. This is a way for me to give back to children that are not healthy.”
She estimated 200 people had already been to the event by noon.
One of those 200 people, LaJune Thomas, came with co-workers from Kayser-Roth.
“I enjoyed it a whole lot, and my grandson enjoyed it. That’s why we’re still here,” she said, motioning toward 11-year-old Stacey, who held a balloon dog made by Knock-Knock the Clown.
Tina Revels, of Scotland County, came with her husband Danny to sing for the crowd.
“He sang up at a church in Rockingham, and they heard him sing and asked him to come out today,” she said.
Revels, who works as a nurse in a hospice, said the work at St. Jude hits close to home for her.
“I’m a nurse, so just the nursing/care-giving role is all about that. One of my co-workers does have a child that’s with St. Jude’s,” she said.
For the walkers who needed an extra boost to get going, or the ones who wanted a tasty treat while taking a break, Granny Olive Custom Cakes of Lumberton had the sugar — 600 cupcakes worth of it.
“We volunteered the cupcakes, and we didn’t even go to bed last night. We stayed up (all night) to do this,” said Ashley Todd about the three-layer cake covered in edible hearts and the Christian Hearts logo.
“It’s about being a Christian, having a heart and giving out to others,” Jacobs said. “There are so many out here that have given in some kind of way.”