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Minnesota family raises $1M for St. Jude in honor of teen lost to brain cancer

Dylan Witschen's dying wish was for his family to keep raising money for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. Eleven years later, they continue to keep their word.

RAMSEY, Minnesota — This year's St. Jude Walk/Run Twin Cities 5k, will be pretty special for Megan Keller and her son, Jude Dylan Keller.

"St. Jude was the biggest blessing to my family," Megan Keller said, "And I thought the coolest thing I could ever do was name my son Jude."

Megan Keller's connection to the St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee, started long before Jude Dylan came along. 

"It came, literally, out of nowhere," Megan said. "My brother, Dylan Witschen, was practicing football outside, and I was playing volleyball in the gym, and all of a sudden we see an ambulance pull up."

Megan would soon find out it was her brother who was in need of help. Dylan, just 14 years old at the time, was suffering the effects of a cancerous brain tumor. 

After having the tumor removed in Minnesota, Megan says her brother researched his options and told his parents that he wanted to travel to St. Jude for cancer treatments.

"And while we were at St. Jude, absolutely everything was paid for," Megan said. "Food, housing, lodging, flights to and from. That meant so much to our family."

After a successful initial treatment, Dylan returned to Minnesota and began repaying the favor, raising money for St. Jude until the day of his 16th birthday, when he learned that his cancer returned.

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"He was given six months to live," Megan said. "That's when he sat down with my mom, my dad and I, and said, 'Guys, I need you to keep raising money. I'm not going to make it, unfortunately, but I just need you guys to keep raising money for the kids of St. Jude, so that no other child has to go through what I do.'"

In honor of that request, his family formed the Dylan Witschen Foundation. In the years since, they've worked to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for St. Jude.

Now, after more than a decade of fundraising in honor of Dylan, the foundation is poised to reach seven figures.

"One Million!" Jude Dylan said.

 "That's right, one million dollars," Megan said. "It's amazing. We knew about St. Jude before Dylan's treatment, but I think, until you're really a patient family, you don't ever think about what that means to someone."

When the family officially reaches that milestone during the walk/run on Saturday, Megan says it feels like they'll have a million people to thank, but there will be one, above all.

"All I know is every dollar that's raised, my brother is looking down and he's thrilled," she said. "He's excited, and he just knows that we're one step closer."

Even though the St Jude Twin Cities 5k is technically virtual this year, the Riversbend Bar and Grill in Ramsey is still hosting an in-person 5k walk/run tomorrow on behalf of the Dylan Witschen Foundation on Saturday. The event begins with a pancake breakfast at 9 a.m. 

If you'd like to contribute to the Dylan Witschen Foundation, click here.

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