Lakewood OH

Emily’s Rainbow Run organizers still looking for sponsors

By Nicole Hennessy


Deborah Lewis


Emily Lewis always said, “Yesterday is history. Tomorrow’s a mystery. Today’s a gift, that’s why it’s called the present.”

“She read that somewhere early on in her diagnosis,” Emily’s mother, Deborah Lewis, remembered.

“She really lived that every day.”

On Aug. 31, 2006, Emily learned she had a form of childhood kidney cancer called Wilms’ tumor, or nephroblastoma. She was 9 years old and a student at Hilliard Elementary School.

“She didn’t say, ‘Why me?’ (and) she didn’t complain,” Lewis added.

Instead, Emily helped organize a camp called Flying Horse Farms in Mt. Gilead, Ohio, for kids suffering with severe illnesses.

While involved with the groundbreaking committee, Emily, unfortunately, was not well enough to attend the camp’s opening — although, Lewis said, she was happy to help.

After a Feb. 16 committee meeting at Westlake Porter Public Library, Lewis, director of the fourth annual Emily’s Rainbow Run and Family Race, gathered papers, shoving stacks of things to get done into her already packed bag.

“It’s really taking on a life of its own,” Lewis said of the race in general and of the committee of more than 10 people, which started off with just two or three.

Last year more than 850 runners and about 120 volunteers participated in Emily’s Rainbow Run. Lewis’ goal for this year is 1,000 participants, which will allow her to donate $31,500 to pediatric cancer research at Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital.

“That makes our total donation to Rainbow $100,000 in four years, which is, really — it’s awesome.”

Each year more money is raised, though the cost of putting on the race keeps increasing. For example, the city is charging  a $1,000 permit fee, which it has not done in the past and, Lewis added, insurance goes up a little bit each year. Also, Westlake High School charges a fee for maintenance. Then there are smaller costs that accumulate, such as that of T-shirts.

“We try to get as much donated as possible,” Lewis said, listing things such as all printed materials and website design, as well as snacks and refreshments.

In discussion with American Greetings, which will soon move into its new Westlake home, the committee has asked it to donate $10,000, allowing them to give almost every other source of income to Rainbow Babies.

“I think that’s probably a stretch for this year, even though it’s a large corporation,” Lewis admitted. “Our largest sponsorship has really been $2,500.”

The next time the committee meets, on March 15, the outcome of the American Greetings committee meeting, at which the $10,000 donation will be decided upon, will be revealed.

Talking about Emily again, Lewis’ whole face lit up. After a long day of nonstop work and eating lunch at 6 p.m., talking about her daughter and the race in her honor rendered her radiant.

She remembered the race’s first year, 2009.  Back then, Emily walked the two miles and, with a big smile, cheered everyone on … but by the second year she was already gone.

For the Lewises, the community came together, cooking them dinner and cutting their lawn.

“Everything was being done,” Lewis said gratefully. Still, people kept asking her what they could do to help, and she thought, “What we can do is raise some money for cancer research. It’s really not funded. It’s just not.”

In 2011, after understandably taking it easy for the race’s second year, Lewis became heavily involved once more.

“When everyone was lining up at the start, I had tears in my eyes because I felt Emily’s overwhelming presence still with us,” she said, her vibrant blue eyes revealing red streaks as she teared up thinking about it.

For this year’s April 29 race, sponsors, runners and volunteers are still needed. So in the weeks leading up to the event, the committee is busy getting as many sponsors as possible.

This race is Emily’s “legacy living on, even though she’s basically not here with us,” Lewis said before putting on her coat and leaving the library 10 minutes before it closed.

Registration forms and information can be found at



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