Andy Querio will take a trip down memory lane later this month when he runs the Christie Clinic Illinois Half Marathon through the campus where he earned his civil engineering degree in 1986.
The University of Illinois graduate who now lives in Aurora often comes back to campus for football and basketball games, and he’s also run the half marathon several times. The prospect of visiting the campus during its 150th anniversary celebration is bringing Querio back to run the half marathon again this spring, as well as the Friday night 5K.
While he’s always eager to visit his alma mater and indulge his passion for running, Querio is motivated by more than just what running does for him personally. He’s been running with Team DetermiNation -- the American Cancer Society program through which athletes raise money for cancer research -- for 14 years.
He started running for the program after a friend was successfully treated for thyroid cancer.
"You can do whatever race you want and sign up with the team and make a commitment to raise money," Querio said. "We’re going to run anyway, and it’s a way of making your miles more meaningful."
He wanted to help people who, like his friend, were suffering from cancer.
"I was raising money, but for people I didn’t really know," Querio said. "In ‘08, it hit home."
That’s when his wife, Mindy, was diagnosed with breast cancer.
"You’re sitting there when she’s going through treatment, and the money didn’t buy that bag of chemo, but in a way it did," Querio said.
"All the money you’re raising is helping with treatments for people going through cancer, for research. Sitting there in the hospital, it would just hit you," he said. "It’s a pretty good feeling that you’re having an impact. All of that is so out of your control, but this is one little way you can have some control and impact in the treatment."
Last year, though, another family member was diagnosed with cancer.
Querio’s mother-in-law had colon cancer. He raised more than $10,000 last year during his "Journey for Ginny."
"Every weekend I would update her and keep her posted, telling her how much people were behind her," Querio said.
His mother-in-law died just after Thanksgiving last year, and this year he’s continuing to raise money for the American Cancer Society in her memory.
Over the years, he’s built up a network of family members, friends, co-workers and acquaintances who donate money to his fundraising campaigns.
Querio has raised $110,000 for the American Cancer Society in his 14 years running with Team DetermiNation.
"It doesn’t take a lot of money from individuals," Querio said. "It just takes a little money from a lot of people. And it adds up pretty fast."
He runs in his blue Team DetermiNation shirt, and he enjoys when spectators see the shirt and cheer him on.
"We’re trying to have an impact on a cause that is near and dear to our hearts," Querio said. "As long as I can keep running, I’m going to keep doing this."
Jodi Heckel, a writer for the University of Illinois News Bureau, is a runner, swimmer and triathlete. You can email her at email@example.com, or follow her at twitter.com/jodiheckel. Her blog is at www.news-gazette.com/blogs/starting-line/.
The link to Andy Querio's fundraising page for the American Cancer Society is http://main.ascevents.org/goto/andyquerio.
Photo: Top: Mindy and Andy Querio before the start of the 5K at the 2011 Christie Clinic Illinois Marathon. Mindy ran the 5K with her husband that year, but Andy Querio said his wife doesn’t usually run. He said she’s his 'curb crew leader,' cheering him on with other family members during his races. Bottom: Mindy and Andy Querio in Memorial Stadium after the 2009 Illinois Half Marathon.