Joe Kettner’s son, Carter, was at the finish line with his captivating smile when the Huntley man ran his first half marathon for the American Cancer Society.
“The beautiful thing about that race that got me through without training was knowing Carter was at the finish line,” Kettner said.
It will be that memory that Kettner carries with him, along with an iPod filled with the little boy’s favorite songs, as he runs in the Chicago Half Marathon and Hyundai Hope on Wheels 5K Sunday in downtown Chicago.
Kettner is running in memory of his 6-year-old son, who died in May 2010 of an inoperable brain tumor, and for the charity his family started in Carter’s memory, Cancer Kiss My Cooley.
“How cool it is this year I am able to run for our own charity?” he said.
Cancer Kiss My Cooley was incorporated in December 2010 and publically introduced on Sept. 23, 2011_ Carter’s 7th birthday.
One of its objectives is granting a Kiss of Hope to families with sick children. In June, the organization gave out its first Kiss of Hope to a young woman named Amber Moosvi of Des Plaines, who has brain cancer. Moosvi and her friends were treated to a pre-prom dinner and limo ride to the prom. A second Kiss of Hope was given to a 19-year-old Carpentersville man with brain cancer who asked for a shopping spree for his family. The family was taken to Woodfield Mall in Schaumburg in a limo and given a $1,000 gift card.
“The first one (Kiss of Hope) was definitely special, in the fact it reminded me of what the people who supported us did,” Kettner said.
When Carter was diagnosed, Joe and his wife, Cinnamon, did not know what his prognosis would be or how long their son would live. The couple decided to try to make him smile everyday and create memories they could have forever.
“There were so many moments in our fight for carter over 15 months, we had a lot of good times,” he said.
Now the Kettners _ with help from family and friends who serve on the charity’s board _ want to do the same for families with sick children.
“We want to create memories away from all the hardship they are going through,” he said. “This is a good healing mechanism for us.”
The half-marathon and 5K race are helping CKMC raise money for its efforts and raise awareness of its mission.
Seventeen people are joining Kettner Sunday to run for CKMC. The team raised $8,000 for the charity. “It’s staggering,” Kettner said of the total. He has been impressed by his teammates willingness to train while raising awareness and funds for CKMC.
Carter has inspired not only his family but his friends as well. His best friend, Ben Keaty, decided he wanted to walk in the 5K and began raising money, Kettner said. The 8-year-old boy had to raise a minimum of $250 to participate, but he ended up raising $1,100.
Ben wants to become a scientist so he can invent a “cancer blow up pill” and help cure kids with cancer, Kettner said.
“It’s amazing. There are so many levels of support from volunteers who will be at the race, the runner and the (CKMC) committee,” Kettner said.
Memories of Carter
The CKMC logo is a drawing of Carter, his eyes glancing upwards and smiling. His illness did not change him, he remained a sweet, well-mannered and respectful child, his father said.
“He’s so many things to me. Carter is and we perfection in a son,” Kettner said. “He was our first child. We were always amazed how full of life a child could be. We were always very proud of him.”
Cater is always with his mom and dad. And his spirit will be with Kettner during the half-marathon.
“I have most of my son’s favorite songs on my iPod list. When I feel I need a little break or need to slow down, the next song will be his. If my son carried this disease and carried a smile on his face for 15 months, I can get through this race,” he said.
“I hope and pray that he does see this and acknowledges this and he continues to smile wherever he is,” Kettner said.
Cancer Kiss My Cooley’s goal is to pass out four Kisses of Hope this year. It is planning a gala in March and will set a new Kiss of Hope goal, Kettner said.
The 16th annual Chicago Half-Marathon takes place at 7 a.m. Sunday, Sept. 9 at Jackson Park, S. Lake Shore Drive and 63rd St. The Hyundai Hope on Wheels 5K Race begins at 7:45 a.m.