by Grace Sall
On Oct. 29, students, teachers and other friends sported their best Halloween costumes along with hats, gloves and scarves to run a 5K or 1 mile dash at Marian High School. In 40 degree weather at 8:30 a.m., the first annual Monster Dash kicked off.
Runners, joggers and walkers started the race in Marian’s upper parking lot, trekking down Sophomore Hill, down 72nd Avenue to Crown Point and back up the hill to return to Marian as it began to sprinkle. Volunteers stood at checkpoints with water bottles and words of encouragement through the cold weather and frozen fingers and toes.
This event was organized by senior Kyleigh Gall and her mother. Last year, Kyleigh was diagnosed with cancer in her left leg. Prior to her diagnosis, she was an avid runner, participating in Marian Cross Country since freshman year. “I think my passion sparked because it’s an individual sport just as much as it is a team sport. I liked challenging myself to try and get a better time than I did the last, but the team atmosphere was one of the best parts,” Kyleigh said. After surgeries and multiple rounds of chemotherapy, she was cancer-free, but not free of her passion for running.
Kyleigh’s love of running is what inspired her idea to create the Monster Dash to benefit pediatric cancer research and Angels Among Us, a nonprofit organization that provides support for Nebraska families who have children with cancer. “For some of those families, it could mean the loss of their home because sometimes the parents have to stop working, so it does mean a lot to those families,” Gretchen Gall, Kyleigh’s mother, said about the nonprofit. Pediatrics only receives about 4 percent of the yearly funding to cancer research.
Kyleigh’s mother expected only about 50 participants in the run/walk, but she estimated close to 200 people came to show their support for Kyleigh and the cause. The varsity volleyball team, cross coun- try coaches, Marian students, faculty and friends, including some of Kyleigh’s nurses and doctors all braved the cold weather and early morning to run. “The run wouldn’t have been possible without everyone’s help,” Kyleigh said.
Her cousins, friends and teachers wore gray shirts and white tags that read “Monster Dash.”
Gretchen hopes to continue this event next year, with more people to participate and more promotion. “Kyleigh’s next project is making fleece blankets for the kids at Children’s and UNMC,” she said, hoping that many Marian girls will help out in this endeavor for Children’s Hospital and the Nebraska Medical Center.
Senior Grace Nelson, a good friend of Kyleigh’s, came with her volleyball teammates to run the 1-mile route. “I thought it was a great opportunity for us to get exercise off the court and support a good cause while doing it,” Nelson said. “I think the coolest part was seeing so many people show up to support,” Nelson added.
Despite the temperature and early morning, the Monster Dash brought a multitude of people to Marian, raising more than $4,000.
“I think if people were to learn anything from me and the run itself is that it’s important to find a way to turn a negative situation into a positive one… so even though something I loved doing was taken away from me due to cancer, I’m not going to let it take away my optimism or love for it and channeled that energy into putting together a run in hopes to one day find a cure,” Kyleigh said.