Dunlap inspiried by cancer victim

DeWayne Bartels

Danny Kurth is an inspiring figure in Dunlap, despite his passing three years ago.

Time has not diminished his influence on Michelle Stear or the Rev. Mary Kathryn Pearce.

Kurth died from cancer.

The disease manifested itself it while he was still a child.

He passed away at the age of 21 in July 2005.

Kurth will be remembered Aug. 2 as runners depart Prospect United Methodist Church embarking on a long run to raise funds for St. Jude.

“The route is over 50 miles. It’s run in relay style,” said Stear, the run’s organizer.

This is the third year for the run in Kurth’s memory.

The first year the run attracted just five runners. Last year, the number climbed to 17, and this year, 30 runners have signed up so far.

The goal for funds this year is $25,000.

The goal has almost been reached.

Stear, who is now eight months pregnant, said the run was, for her, initially inspired by Pearce, who challenged the church members to do something for St. Jude.

“She said, ‘Why can’t there be a run in Dunlap?' It inspired me to start the run,” Stear said.

Stear was further inspired after meeting Kurth’s family. 

Stear had never met Kurth. But, she recalls vividly learning of his death.

“During vacation Bible school, I found out about Danny,” Stear said.

The children at the church were making him cards while he was undergoing treatment.

“He was in Memphis fighting for his life,” Stear said.

“The last day of vacation Bible school we learned he’d passed. He’d fought his entire life.”

Kurth’s passing deeply affected Pearce, his pastor.

Just a couple months after his death, in August, as attention grew around the

Memphis-to-Peoria St. Jude Run, Pearce delivered a sermon with a challenge.

She challenged the church membership to do something to commemorate Kurth’s life and help others.

“I shared that in the history of the United Methodist Church that John Wesley, our founder, told us to care for the children,” Pearce said.

She told her parishioners the United Methodist Church had partnered with St. Jude to battle AIDS in Africa.

“I extended that and said, ‘What if we became pro-active and began a Dunlap run?’ Michelle Stear heard that and she did it,” Pearce said.

“It’s allowing the church to do what we Methodists are called to do.”

For Pearce, this is a very personal thing.

“He loved the marching band at Dunlap High School. What moved me was his tenacity to fight the cancer. He believed in hope. He was resilient, even in the eyes of this disease,” she said.    

“He had a gentleness about him and compassion.”

Pearce said the inspiration she felt from him lives on in the run.

“This is the people of this church. They captured this challenge and, in the process, are carrying on what was to be learned from his life.”