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Run for Rural Retreat cancer victim still going strong

Thomas Musser earned the nickname Mr. Strong from his hard fight with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Every year since his death at age 9 in October 2010, Thomas has been remembered through a community event – Mr. Strong Family 5K Run/Walk.

“Our annual event is our community’s way of remembering Thomas and thanking the doctors and nurses at St. Jude Children’s Research who work so hard taking care of the children fighting cancer,” noted Susan Spraker, a family friend of the Mussers and one of the organizers of the 5K run/walk.

Set for Saturday, Dec. 6, at the Rural Retreat Fire Station, this year’s Mr. Strong Family 5K Run/Walk is evolving into a major fundraiser. It kicks off with registration at 9 a.m. and run at 10 a.m. followed by the kids’ run.

“The registration fee is any amount anyone wants to donate to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital,” Spraker said. “It is our hope to keep Thomas’ amazingly generous spirit alive by giving back to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.”

Lunch from Smokey’s Barbecue will be sold from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

The auction will feature several sports-related items. Included will be team donations from the Carolina Panthers, Atlanta Hawks, Pittsburgh Pirates and the Washington Redskins’,  DeSean Jackson.

Spraker pointed out 100 percent of all money collected will go directly to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital where Thomas Musser underwent chemotherapy, radiation and two bone marrow transplants.

Thomas Musser was diagnosed with leukemia three months from his fourth birthday. He, his parents, Ed and Lisa Musser, and twin brothers, Matthew and Andrew, moved to Memphis, Tennessee, so Thomas could have the best treatment possible for his type of childhood cancer.

Eight of the family’s friends from Rural Retreat, including Susan Spraker and her dentist husband, Michael Spraker, went to Memphis in December 2006 to run the St, Jude Marathon in honor of Thomas. The group raised $5,000 given in Thomas’ name to help continue the research to find cures for childhood cancers.

Susan Spraker recalled, “On that freezing night, we turned the corner around mile six and ran through the St. Jude campus. On our right, we saw Thomas and his family holding up signs and waving to encourage us on.”

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She added, “We waved to patients bundled up in wagons with chemo IV poles attached, parents holding little bundles with bald heads covered with toboggans, and doctors and nurses cheering along the streets.”

The Rural Retreat delegation determined to bring that experience home with them. They organized the community 5K run/walk.

This will be the second year that DeSean Jackson, Washington Redskins’ wide receiver, and CEO, of The DeSean Jackson Foundation has partnered with the organizers of this event by lending his name, support and staff to help raise awareness and funds for St. Jude Children’s Hospital in Thomas Musser’s memory.  Jackson’s foundation was founded in 2009 in memory of his father, William “Bill” Jackson who died from Pancreatic Cancer.


Each year, DeSean Jackson takes time away from advocating and fundraising for his own charity to support this worthy cause.  Jackson states, “We are One Team with One Purpose’ to eradicate cancer; and, regardless of where childhood cancer ranks in regards to other types of cancers when I child dies it is one too many.  My Pops would want me to do whatever I can to help.”

 St. Jude Flyer