Runners started the run with balloons, and carried them until they arrived at Nathan's lemonade stand before releasing them as tribute.
EAST PEORIA, Ill. (WEEK) -- -
During their day-long journey towards the Saint Jude Telethon, runners made several stops along the way.
But few were as energetic and memorable as a driveway lemonade stand named after a little boy with brain cancer.
"It's huge. It's just...it is like the biggest hug you could possibly get," explains Julie Pennington. "And you know that he's not fight- he never fought alone."
The past four years, Nathan Pennington battled his cancer with the support of St. Jude. The stand was his sister's idea originally, and every year since he's been helping to hand out drinks.
Nathan passed away in January, causing the St. Jude community to rally around the Pennington family and their lemonade stand.
"I believe in God. I'm a mom, a Nana, a nurse...I've seen it from many angles," explains Debbie Trau, a family friend and neighbor of the Penningtons. "And nobody should have to go through this. No child should ever die in the dawn of their life."
Nathan's absence from the lemonade stand this year made it hard, to say the least. But his sister, Olivia, wanted to remember her brother and host the lemonade stand again. And that is what made this year one of the best yet.
Olivia's name is right next to her brother's on shirts and signs, and it was her push to keep the tradition alive.
The stand has raised more than $10,000 in the last few years.
"Shortly after (Nathan) died, Olivia came to us and said 'Mom, would it be okay if I kept the lemonade stand going this year?' And we said absolutely," said Julie.
It's a labor of love, one that's hard on the whole family.
Olivia had one important message she wanted to pass on to her brother - who, in her own words, was running barefoot right alongside all the runners today: