This past Saturday, over 300 people attended Phil Phest, an inaugural 5k Run/Walk along with corresponding after-party (or "phestival", if you will), to raise money for The Running for Dreams Foundation, a charity started by Phil DeGruy to assist children who are struggling because of a parent with cancer.
If the name Phil DeGruy made you salivate and you weren't sure why, it's because he's the beloved entrepreneur and chief burger brain behind local favorite Phil's Grill, a long standing metro-area restaurant with several locations that was known for it's delicious Build-Your-Own burger menu (I think most of us remember writing on that order form in pencil or crayon), and an atmosphere of employees and regulars so powerful it can only be referred to as, well - Phamily. (Aside from making extremely tasty burgers, the man is also great at alliterative puns. I won't write it here, but you should check out his page for his very creative cancer-fighting slogan!)
The restaurants (there were several locations) closed for a variety of reasons, but most of them circled around a devastating cancer diagnosis for Phil, who beat the odds using endurance training to literally run towards being a two-time cancer survivor.
Running for Dreams is his latest mission, and this private, grant-based, 501c3, or Phil-anthrophy, if you will, started based on DeGruy as a child losing his own father to cancer, and those thoughts resonating about Phil's own children as he was fortunate enough to beat the odds, despite perhaps taking a non-traditional method to fighting cancer. Endurance running was an idea he had based off of an article he read suggesting it can build the immune system to help fight terminal illnesses like cancer. It worked. He went from an original Stage III and secondary Stage IV cancer diagnosis to competing in 4 Sprint Triathlons, 2 half marathons, 1 marathon, and 2 ultra marathons. His goal is to do a full Iron Man triathlon, hoping to go from "(Stage) IV to 140.6 (miles)"
Put it all together like the ingredients on a perfectly executed hamburger, and Phil combined his restaurant's legacy of giving, his love of running, and the idea that his children did not have to seek out a charity to help them that does not exist (he was unable to find a lot of organizations that helped children of cancer patients) - and Running for Dreams was born.
The event was held in the parking lot of St. Rita School, with the 5K course going through the neighborhood and atop the levee as runners raced or walked towards the sunset. Afterwards, participants received a medal and enjoyed tunes from the band, ReFried Confuzion, and of course - some delicious grub, sorry - phood. They are still counting contributions raised from the evening but know that the event raised over $10,000 for children affected by a parent with cancer. Sponsorships were provided by Hyundai of Metairie, Audi New Orleans, Evamor, Southern Eagle, John's Tuxedos, River Parish Disposal, Inland NOLA, NOLA Brewing, and many more available on the Facebook Page @Running for Dreams. Support was provided by the Harahan Police Department, and the race was organized by Lazy Hound Racing.
If you are a child 8-18 and you'd like to apply for a Running for Dreams grant, you can email your story to email@example.com to seek assistance. For more information about Phil's story, check out his podcast, Make it Count with Jennifer and Phil, available on Spotify.
The next time you're having a delicious burger, or are inspired to take a run, consider learning more about this phantastic organization, and perhaps making a donation for this and future "phundraisers" at http://runningfordreams.com.