A Lancaster County man and the girl who inspired him to run 1,000 miles for pediatric cancer

LITITZ, Pa. - Most people have their own routine during the day. JP Welliver's just happens to be a little more intense.

This year, he's committed to running at least 3 miles a day, every day, until he reaches 1,000 miles. It's all to raise $10,000 for pediatric cancer research in the name of multiple individuals.

One little girl continues to inspire him a decade after their first meeting. Her name is Lexi Barnett, of Reading.

Lexi lived a full life. Just ask her grandma.

"Sassy... witty... She loved to dance. She liked frogs and playing in the dirt. There wasn't much she didn't like," Wanda Barnett said.

But Wanda and Lexi's mother both knew something was wrong when their daughter continuously complained of leg pain.

"When she was sitting at the bottom of the steps and couldn't make it to the bathroom because of the leg pain, it was concerning," Wanda said.

They first took Lexi to a hospital in Reading, where she was diagnosed with an ear infection. Another doctor diagnosed her, again incorrectly. She then was sent to Penn State - Hershey, where she was immediately diagnosed with Neuroblastoma, a cancer usually first spotted in the adrenal glands.

The diagnosis was devastating. Lexi was only 3-years old at the time. But, after 8 months of chemotherapy, additional radiation and a stem cell transplant, she beat it.

But the cancer returned just after her sixth birthday. That's where JP and the rest of his team members for Penn State's THON come into the picture.

"She fit right in. 17 college kids visited the hospital. They did anything she wanted," Wanda said.

Lexi's favorite place was the Bob Evans restaurant in Hershey, where they all visited in one particular favorite memory.

However, this time the cancer was stronger. 6-year old Lexi wouldn't make it to her seventh birthday. She passed away 31 days before it.

"It was hard," Wanda struggled to say.

But the memory of Lexi lives on now nearly a decade after her death. The Barnetts now participate both with Giving Wishes Wings and Love for Lexi Foundation, working with children and families of pediatric cancer.

As for JP, it's her memory that continues to drive him as he edges closer to 1,000 miles.

"It might be windy, it might be cold. But nothing compares to these families having to go through because of the disease," Welliver said.

You can follow JP Welliver's journey of 1,000 miles to $10,000 on his website.

If you'd like to donate, you can follow the link on his website, or find a direct link here.

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