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Lizzy's Walk of Faith brings community together in hope for cancer cure

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With fog rolling over the lake and cool air producing goose bumps, hundreds of people gathered with one focus Saturday morning: supporting childhood cancer research and honoring those affected by it.

Runners take off from the start line

Runners in Lizzy’s Walk of Faith take off from the start line Saturday at Twin Lakes Recreation Area. Lizzy died in 2018 of bone cancer. “It’s cool that everyone came together even though it’s the second year,” said Hannah Wampler, 17, Lizzy Wampler’s sister. “It’s a good way to remember that no one fights alone.”

Everyone was at Twin Lakes Park for the second annual Lizzy’s Walk of Faith 5K Walk/Run.

Ten-year-old Elizabeth “Lizzy” Joy Wampler died March 2018, after battling osteosarcoma, a type of bone cancer. Her parents, Jennifer and John Wampler, chose to honor her by creating the Lizzy’s Walk of Faith Foundation and hosting the annual 5K.

“I know Lizzy would be really happy that we’re doing this,” Hannah Wampler, Lizzy’s sister, said. “She always loved having a bunch of her friends around, and I know she’d be blessed to have a lot of people supporting her.”

Jennifer Wampler and John Wampler thank the crowd

Jennifer Wampler, left, and John Wampler thank the crowd for their attendance at the start of the 5K walk and run Saturday at Twin Lakes Recreation Area. The event was organized in honor of their daughter, Lizzy Wampler, who died of bone cancer last year. 

Up until the very end of her life, Lizzy remained constant in her faith in the Lord, and her family continues to have faith and encourages others dealing with pediatric cancer.

Jennifer Wampler said they wanted to help other people who had to hear the words “your child has cancer” to keep faith and continue walking on.

“You have to walk through it,” she said. “And we’re praying for a better outcome for them, or a different outcome than Lizzy’s.”

The Wampler’s vision for the foundation is to raise awareness about pediatric cancer, support research to find a cure and care for other affected families.

Their care for other families was on display at the race’s remembrance table. The table was covered with pictures and stories of many children like Lizzy who were taken too early by cancer. Jennifer Wampler said she’s concerned that not enough has been done to solve this terrible problem.

When Lizzy was diagnosed, the medicine provided for her had not been changed in 40 years, Jennifer Wampler said.

Kendall Chase-Waggoner, Hayley Ockerhauser and Melissa Cramer tear up

From left, Kendall Chase-Waggoner, Hayley Ockerhauser and Melissa Cramer tear up as they listen to John Wampler and Jennifer Wampler tell Lizzy's story Saturday at Twin Lakes Recreation Area. This was the second year that the walk and run was being held.

“There haven’t been any new breakthroughs with osteosarcoma,” she said. “I find that hard to believe in 2019, when you hear of all the advancements in adult cancers, which I think is wonderful.”

She asked why the same advancements in pediatric cancer aren’t being made.

The money raised by the foundation is in part donated to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee, to support research for childhood cancer cures. This year, some of the money will be used to support local families.

Last year’s 5K raised $30,000. This year, $35,000 was raised and 400 participants had signed up for the race, the foundation announced Wednesday on Facebook.

Some people who came just to cheer for the participants included the Oakland Middle School cheerleaders, the Christian Fellowship School cheerleaders, MU’s Golden Girls and members of MU’s Tri Delta sorority.

“It’s really great because you get to come and see all these people that have known her come together to celebrate her life,” Deanna Foster, a Christian Fellowship cheerleader, said. “Everyone’s just happy, and it’s not like a sad event.”

Many others showed their love and support for the family by volunteering and participating in the race.

Logan Hovis, Anna Byergo and Ella Byergo greet participants

From left, Logan Hovis, Anna Byergo and Ella Byergo greet participants at the start line as they begin the 5K Walk/Run Saturday at Twin Lakes Recreation Area. According to the mother of Anna and Ella, Amy Byergo, they had an appointment last year at the pediatric clinic where John Wampler works. He asked if they would attend last year's event dressed as princesses because Lizzy Wampler loved princesses. 

“Just any way that we’re able to support the family and just encourage each other in our faith is a great way . . . to keep her memory alive,” Regan Muth, who participated in the 5K, said. Muth is also the leader of a bible study group that includes Lizzy’s sister, Hannah.

Lizzy’s love and faith not only inspired her parents to create the foundation, but also had an incredible impact all over Columbia — and beyond.

Austin and Rachel Carson traveled all the way from Columbia, Tennessee, to support the family in the race. The Carsons and Wamplers became close friends while Lizzy was at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

The couple was so affected by Lizzy that they named their daughter “Elizabeth Joy” to honor her.

John Wampler and Jennifer Wampler's dog, Memphis, sniffs a laughing Elizabeth Joy Carson

John Wampler and Jennifer Wampler’s dog, Memphis, sniffs a laughing Elizabeth Joy Carson, 10 months old, as father Austin Carson holds her Friday in front of DICK’S Sporting Goods. Austin Carson’s parents met John Wampler and Lizzy Wampler through a church in Memphis, Tennessee. Austin Carson and Rachael Carson decided to name their daughter after Lizzy.

Frank Hazelrigg, Lizzy’s best friend, admires her. He remembers many fun, silly moments when Lizzy would do things that would bring him joy and laughter.

Zeke Davis nears the end line

From left, Zeke Davis nears the finish line with his church friends Michael Cook, 13, and Dylan Cook, 4, as mother Lalaina Cook takes a photo of them Saturday at Twin Lakes Recreation Area. Michael Cook is one of the recipients of the Lizzy’s Walk of Faith Foundation’s Honoring Our Heroes medal this year.

“Lizzy was a true cheerleader. She was a true encourager,” John Wampler said. “She always left people better than when she found them. And that’s what charisma does.”

Supervising editor is Tynan Stewart.

  • I am a fall 2019 state government reporter. I am studying data journalism. Reach me at lilliehegeman@gmail.com or at 816-244-7488 with story tips and ideas.

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