MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - This weekend will make 16 years of the St. Jude Marathon, and as you can imagine, there is so much excitement surrounding it.
It's not just the race itself, but the incredible stories and everyone who is running for a real cause that creates real change.
Thousands of people poured into the Cook Convention Center on Thursday for the kickoff of the St. Jude Marathon Weekend, and it just keeps on growing.
"The first year we partnered up with St. Jude we had about 2,500 runners, we're having 25,000 runners this year," said ALSAC President and CEO Rick Shadyac.
It's the single-biggest one-day fundraiser for St. Jude, bringing people from all 50 states and 26 countries to Memphis.
It's a fundraiser that means a lot to Kenneth Lewis and his family.
"We really have a passion, a heart, a desire to give back to St. Jude as much as we can because they've given so much to us, and we feel like we're indebted to give to St. Jude whatever we can," Lewis said.
His daughter Lauren was a St. Jude patient at just 17 months old. Now she's 13, and happy and healthier than ever.
"We could not see this far 12 years ago but each day we look back and reflect and say 'wow, what a journey,'" Lewis said.
As the weekend draws big crowds, Memphis Police Department wants to make sure everyone is safe while enjoying the race.
"We'll have a very heavy presence and we want to ensure the estimated 25,000 runners and thousands of visitors to our city can have a safe race and enjoy their weekend in Memphis," MPD Director Mike Rallings said.
In the midst of the busy weekend, organizers want to remind everyone to remember the powerful purpose.
"Take a moment to reflect on the beauty of this event, because I genuinely believe it's one of the most special weekends for the entire year in our city," Shadyac said.
For more information about the marathon and how you can get involved, visit the official website.