HUNTLEY – In 2009, Joe Kettner participated in his first half-marathon, a grueling 13.1-mile run, for a special purpose, aside from helping raise money for the American Cancer Society.
His prize for the race was seeing his son, Carter Kettner, at the finish line. Carter, who was 5 years old at the time, had been diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor before the marathon.
Doctors gave him less than 12 months to live, but Carter lived for nearly 15 months before dying in May 2010. More than two years later, Joe Kettner is strapping on his running shoes again to run in the Chicago Half Marathon on Sunday.
Kettner, a Huntley resident, will be joined by 17 friends, family and supporters, this time, to help raise money for Cancer Kiss My Cooley, a charity started by Joe and Cinnamon Kettner after Carter’s death.
“Now, we are the charity, and I get to run for the charity. It’s a wonderful feeling,” Joe Kettner said. “It will be so bittersweet at the same time, when we finish and I know my son isn’t there at the finish line. But there are others who will be helped as we finish and continue to raise funds.”
The 17 participating runners collectively have raised $8,000 for the charity’s “Kiss of HOPE,” a service that fulfills wishes for area children and teenagers diagnosed with life-threatening conditions.
In June, the group granted its first wish for a 16-year-old Des Plaines teenager who had been diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor and wanted a special prom night. The group provided a stretch limousine, dinner and other prom-related activities for her and her friends.
The group’s biggest individual fundraiser for the Chicago Half Marathon has been the Kettners’ neighbor, Ben Keaty, Joe Kettner said.
Keaty, an 8-year-old who was best friends with Carter, has raised nearly $1,100 – far exceeding his $250 minimum limit – and will be participating in the 5K race that coincides with the half-marathon.
Joe Kettner said support from neighbors, friends and the community is what motivated him and his wife to form Cancer Kiss My Cooley. During Carter’s battle, the Kettners received numerous donations, there were rallies and the village even renamed their street “Carter Kettner Drive.”
Given the outpouring of support, the Kettners plan to participate in numerous community events in the future to raise money for their charity and their mission to give children battling medical conditions a special moment.
“We fought for 15 months, but the 15 months we had were pretty good due to the generous hearts out there who were able to help us,” Joe Kettner said. “Now we feel it’s our turn to help the next guy and pay that forward and help other children.”