First-Time Team RMHC Marathon Runner Dedicates 2011 Chicago Marathon to Eight-Year-Old Son Battling Cancer

Mark Johnston and More Than 300 Runners From 29 States and Eight Countries Will Raise $500,000 to Help RMHC Provide Stability and Resources to Children and Families

OAK BROOK, IL--(Marketwire - Oct 6, 2011) - Running a marathon is a challenge; both physically and mentally, but to Mark Johnston, it's nothing compared to the race his son Luke has been running battling cancer for the past four years. In honor of his son, and the Ronald McDonald Houses that have offered him and his family a place to stay while they seek out the best treatment for Luke, Johnston is running to raise money for Ronald McDonald House Charities® (RMHC®) during the 2011 Bank of America Chicago Marathon.

At just four years old, Luke was diagnosed with neuroblastoma. Now eight, he has endured countless surgeries and painful medical treatments. Luke, his twin brother Logan, his sisters, Haley and Hannah, Johnston and Luke's mom, Brandi, have stayed over 200 nights in Ronald McDonald Houses in Chicago, Madison, Los Angeles and Salt Lake City. Beyond having a place to stay just steps from his son's hospital bed, the Houses have helped save the Johnston family over $20,000 since his son was diagnosed.

"Over the past couple of months, I have trained and pushed my body to a limit I never knew. Luke's smiling face and the faces of other children suffering is what keeps me running, one step at a time, and one mile at a time," said Johnston. "I have never run a marathon, but given the challenge my son is facing and the great support my family and I received from RMHC, I couldn't think of a better way to pay tribute to Luke's courage and to give back to such a remarkable organization, than to run for Team RMHC." Mark hopes to cross the finish line where Luke will be waiting. His medal already has Luke's name on it.

Every night more than 7,800 families like the Johnston's stay at a Ronald McDonald House®, a place they call home where they can stay close by their hospitalized child. Families find more than a room, they are provided with stability and vital resources from RMHC staff, volunteers and other families in the House. Johnston and his fellow Team RMHC runners comprised of marathoners from 29 states, eight countries and staff from McDonald's® Corporation have also found great support training with Team RMHC.

"Team RMHC exemplifies our belief that there is strength in numbers. The Team RMHC runners have built a network of support much like that which our families build when they stay at a Ronald McDonald House," said Jennifer Blanchard Smith, senior director RMHC. "They cheer each other on; they are there when the times are the tough and grueling. So, when Team RMHC crosses the finish line for the 2011 Bank of America Chicago Marathon, it will celebrate more than participating in this pinnacle of achievement for elite athletes, it will allow families the time together to heal faster and cope better."

When the totals are tallied for this year, the more than 300 Team RMHC runners who have completed the daunting 26.2 mile race over the last half decade will have raised a total of more than $1.2 million to support RMHC programs that provide a bridge to quality health care for children and families like the Johnstons.

This year, Team RMHC has a goal to raise $500,000. To support the children and families who need the support of RMHC during a critical time in their life, make a donation to Team RMHC in the Chicago Marathon by going to

About Ronald McDonald House Charities
Ronald McDonald House Charities (RMHC), a non-profit, 501 (c) (3) corporation, creates, finds and supports programs that directly improve the health and well being of children. Through its global network of local Chapters in 54 countries and regions, its three core programs, the Ronald McDonald House®, Ronald McDonald Family Room® and Ronald McDonald Care Mobile®, and millions of dollars in grants to support children's programs worldwide, RMHC provides stability and resources to families so they can get and keep their children healthy and happy. All RMHC-supported programs provide a bridge to quality health care and give children and families the time they need together to heal faster and cope better. For more information, or follow us on Twitter (@RMHC) and Facebook ( Global).

The following trademarks used herein are owned by McDonald's Corporation and its affiliates: Ronald McDonald House Charities, Ronald McDonald House Charities Logo, RMHC, Ronald McDonald House, Ronald McDonald Family Room, and Ronald McDonald Care Mobile.

© 2011McDonald's

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Chicago Marathon, RMHC, Luke and Mark