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4th Annual Walk for Ben: Steps for a Cure raises $10,000

Memorial Lap

On September 13, the BenInspired Foundation hosted the 4th Annual Walk for Ben: Steps for a Cure fundraising event at Winnebago High School’s Athletic Stadium. For the fourth straight year the sun was shining as over 500 participants came out to raise funds for the foundation that supports the Make a Wish Foundation and Neuroblastoma Research Fund and Pediatric Oncology through the UW American Family Children’s Hospital.

Ben Johnson, died in 2010 from Neuroblastoma cancer and this event is not only close to his birthday, but also held in conjunction with Childhood Awareness Month for September.

German American State Bank proudly sponsored the event again and provided all participants with a free hot dog, chips and drink. They also supplied fun games, the German American Bank Cash Machine along with free popcorn and cotton candy. Several employees volunteered at various stations to help assist the foundation with running the event.

For each lap a participant would walk they would earn a free raffle ticket that they could enter to win for one or more of the 70 prizes that were donated from various businesses or purchased through cash donations.
At 6 p.m. participants were asked to gather in the WHS bleachers for a short ceremony prior to the memory lap.

Mike Garrigan from WIFR 23 News, was the special emcee for the event, who welcomed and then thanked everyone for coming to the walk. Mr. Bloomquist, Winnebago Superintendent and McNair Elementary Librarian Christine Draves first recognized three essay winners from the school who wrote about “What makes a good friend.” Coil Naill, 3rd Grade, Grace Erb 4th grade, and Mya Erdahl, 5th grade were recognized and provided prizes. Their essays will be framed and hung in McNair Elementary for the entire school year.

Secondly, Mrs. Staci Thompson, acknowledged the various sports teams and organizations who walked as team at the event. WHS Soccer, Volleyball, Cross Country, Football and WHS National Honor Society, Student Council and Key Club, as well as WMS Student Council all participated. German American Bank recognizes the top two teams who raised the most amount of money for the event, which was the WHS Football Team and the WMS Student Council, by awarding them $250.00 and $100.00 back towards their programs.

Special guests from the Make A Wish Foundation participated in the walk, and the foundation also welcomed Jenny Kimball and Dr. Ken DeSantes from the UW American Family Children’s Hospital. Ms. Kimball and Dr. DeSantes each talked about the funds raised through the BenInspired Foundation and how those funds have directly impacted patients and cancer research.

Peggy Johnson, Ben’s mother, asked members of the Class of 2015 to be recognized for their dedication to participating in the event and all they have done to keep Ben, and fellow classmate Cole Trusler’s memories alive. Ben and Cole (who passed away in December 2011 from a car accident) were both members of the Class of 2015.  Everyone was then asked to follow the Class of 2015 as they led the participants on the memory lap for Ben, followed by an orange and blue balloon release.

Winnebago Superintendent Scott Bloomquist recognizes Cole N. 3rd grade, Grace E. 4th grade, and Mya E. 5th grade, as the three essay winners from McNair Elementary and presents them with prizes from the BenInspired Foundation.

Members of Winnebago National Honor Society and close friends of Ben Johnson's pose quickly before volunteering for children's games at the Walk for Ben: Pictured L to R: Becca R., Mitch H., Abby D., Emily W., Matt H., Noah W. and Gracie C.

Members of the WHS Soccer Team walk together at the Walk for Ben. Pictured L to R: Jeremy M., Dalton M., Jacob K., Chas L., Evan S. and Noah W.

The BenInspired Foundation would like to extend a heartfelt thank you for all the business sponsors and donations, the participants and teams that registered, and all the volunteers for their help with this event. For more information on the BenInspired Foundation, please visit

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304 East McNair Road
Winnebago IL 61088

Phone: 815.335.2456
Fax: 815.335.7574
Office Hours: 8:00 a.m. - 3:30 p.m.