Running for the Kids

How One Employee is Helping Cure Childhood Cancer One Step at a Time

Divine intervention and a pasta dinner in the midst of a Memphis snow storm lead Sanderson Farms’ Senior Financial Analyst, Deleica Clayton, down the path to becoming a hero, more specifically, a St. Jude Hero. For the past three years, Clayton has run in the St. Jude Memphis Marathon benefiting St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Through her continued dedication and involvement with one of the country’s premier children’s research hospitals, she has helped raise more than $120,000 for the children’s hospital through her 71-person-strong running group affectionately titled, Team Run4TheKids.

As a runner of 10 years, Clayton has made a hobby of participating in 5Ks and marathons, but it wasn’t until a friend contacted her with interest in running the St. Jude Memphis Marathon that Clayton realized the truly life-changing capacity of her favorite pastime. Clayton remembers signing up for her first St. Jude marathon as a St. Jude Hero, a runner who pledges to raise a minimum of $500 for the hospital.

“I went home and was telling my husband that they really want people to sign up as Heroes,” said Clayton. “I just felt a calling to do this. I think it was the good Lord working in the background.”

With encouragement from her husband, Clayton pursued her goal of raising $500, all while training for a 26.2 mile marathon. Through the generosity of her coworkers, church and community members, she traveled to Memphis, Tennessee on race weekend, having raised more than $5,000.

Because of her charitable donation, Clayton was invited to the annual pasta dinner, a St. Jude Memphis Marathon kick-off event held for top St. Jude Heroes. At the dinner, she had the opportunity to hear the inspirational message of a young girl receiving treatment at St. Jude Hospital. It was a profound message, filled with the girl’s story of staying in the Ronald McDonald House while receiving treatment and paying absolutely nothing, because no parent receives a bill from St. Jude for their child’s care.

Clayton was moved by the story of the young girl and the efforts of St. Jude to eradicate childhood cancer. She was more ready than ever to begin her 26-mile journey for the children. Much to Clayton’s dismay, the 2013 St. Jude Marathon was canceled, for the first time in race history, due to a severe snow and ice storm in Memphis.

Refusing to end her weekend without a run and seeking resolution that she had truly “run for the kids,” Clayton completed her 26 miles the next day at Longleaf Trace in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. She then made immediate plans to return to Memphis the following year to run the St. Jude Memphis Marathon, knowing that her days of running for the kids had only just begun.

Next time, she would not go alone. Clayton knew she had friends and colleagues who ran marathons, and she persuaded them to become St. Jude Heroes like herself. Through Clayton’s passion for St. Jude and her friends’ willingness to help and serve, Team Run4TheKids was formed in 2014.

A running team composed of St. Jude Heroes and led by Clayton, Team Run4TheKids spends each year hosting charitable events to raise funds for St. Jude before running in the St. Jude Memphis Marathon each December. Beginning in 2014, the team had 23 members who collectively raised $23,000 for the cause. Last year, the team increased to 42 people who made a total contribution of $43,000 to the children’s hospital.

In 2016, the team once again increased to 71 members who raised over $42,500 for the hospital. Under the positive guidance of Clayton, Team Run4TheKids ranks nationally in the top five teams for raising funds for St. Jude.

To help in their fundraising efforts, the team hosts one running event per year. The 2016 Team Run4TheKids 5K and 10K raised nearly $11,000 dollars to contribute to the team’s overall goal. Though they had over 300 registrants for the race, Clayton explained that most of the funds collected from the race came from more than 70 event sponsorships ranging from $50 to $300.

Apart from their annual race, Team Run4TheKids employs creative charity events throughout the year to help raise funds. They held a raffle, selling tickets for a chance to win a gun. Raising Cane’s also holds charity nights for the team, giving 10 percent of its proceeds from that night to Team Run4TheKids.

Clayton, along with fellow team members and Sanderson Farms employees including Jennifer Gable, Programmer Analyst; Kathy Byrd, P.C. Specialist; Katherine Murray, Benefits Supervisor; Geri Pitts, Staff Formulator; Tammy Ramsey, Operations Supervisor; Alicia Walker, Quality Auditor; Krista Hyatt, Corporate Logistics Coordinator; Serina Williamson, Benefits Clerk; and Brittany Battle, Corporate Logistics Rate Manager, raised funds for their team through lunches hosted at Sanderson Farms. The employees and team members made homemade lunches that employees could purchase for donations made to St. Jude. They even baked more than 1,000 cupcakes this past Valentine’s Day to sell at the Corporate Office, a feat that Clayton said left her unable to look at red velvet cake for quite some time. All of these efforts have certainly paid off for Team Run4TheKids as they have raised a total of more than $120,000 to date for St. Jude.

Clayton is extremely dedicated to her team, St. Jude and her community. Through her fundraising efforts, she has made a profound impact on the lives of children receiving care at the Memphis-based children’s hospital. The dedication of Clayton and her team has been instrumental in the success of their fundraising efforts. They are always willing to take the steps necessary to meet their fundraising goals and provide as much as they can for the children of St. Jude.

According to Clayton, the example for such superior community service is set high by Sanderson Farms. She is proud to work for such a giving organization that works with many philanthropic causes throughout the community. Clayton says that Sanderson Farms’ example of giving encourages other employees, like herself, to give back as well.

Clayton shows no signs of slowing down in her efforts for St. Jude. She will do anything in her power to find the funds to help as many children, until no child dies from cancer. “I may feel that I’m always asking for a donation, but it’s always on my mind how much these families suffer, so I will not stop,” said Clayton. “God has called me to lead this team and raise money.” With the help of Team Run4TheKids, plus a little bit of faith and pasta, Clayton continues to find the strength and determination each year to get out and go running, 26.2 miles, just for the kids.