PERU - Running through the apple orchards isn't something that typically helps the community. That is, unless, it's during the Run for Jon.
The annual 2.5-mile cross country race marks its 20th anniversary this year, celebrating nearly as long of helping North Country families in need through the Jonathan Evans Memorial Fund. The Run for Jon originally started as a fundraiser for Jon's family, organized by family friends Scott Woodward and Mark Elmore, to help defray medical expenses associated with Jon's treatment for rhabdomyosarcoma, a rare form of soft tissue cancer that claimed his life at the age of 13 in 1992.
The following year, the focus on fundraising for the event shifted to help provide financial assistance to families with seriously-ill loved ones.
Shirley Evans, Jonathan's mother, said she never imagined being part of an event that would raise more than $50,000 to help others - but she has and she continues to be proud it's done in her son's memory.
"It's impressive," said Evans. "We're so excited we've managed to carry it on this long. It makes us feel good to know when we hear a North Country family needs help, we're able to do that. It's thanks to the generosity of all the people who are able to contribute and help put on [the Run for Jon] every year."
The fact the Run for Jon has spanned two decades is also amazing to Scott Woodward, one of the event's founders. Woodward, who was Jon's cross-country track coach at Peru Central School, said he continues to be impressed how the Run for Jon has grown from an event that drew 150 people to one that brings upwards of 400 people year after year.
"It's just gratifying that it's become somewhat of an institution and a wonderful event for the North Country," said Woodward. "The North Country is so supportive of events like this and [the Run for Jon] reaching 20 years is an example of that."