Inaugural Maggie’s Mountain Run benefits Glenwood family, others battling cancer

Manuela Perez, 7, poses with a rainbow. Saturday's Maggie's Mountain Run 5K and 10K race has been organized to help with her cancer battle.
Courtesy of the Perez family

Running a 5- or 10-kilometer mountain trail race is hard, but compared to the race a child facing cancer must run, it’s a walk in the park.

The two challenges come together Saturday at the inaugural Maggie’s Mountain Run — a 5K, 10K or 1-mile running event on the dirt roads traversing the picturesque Argonaut Farm south of Glenwood Springs.

The event serves as a benefit for the Perez family of Glenwood Springs, whose 7-year-old daughter Manuela is fighting leukemia. It’s also meant to help raise awareness around the broader efforts of the Miracles From Maggie Fund.

Cyndi and Jim McGinnis are the caretakers at Argonaut Farm, located along Four Mile Road on the way to Sunlight Mountain Resort.

Prior to moving to Glenwood Springs from Pittsburgh, they started the nonprofit Miracles From Maggie Fund through The Pittsburgh Foundation in memory of Cyndi’s daughter (Jim’s stepdaughter), Maggie Elder, who died at the age of 11 in February 2012 from a form of bone cancer.

“Through Maggie’s eight-month journey with cancer we had such an outpouring of kindness from our community, and (Maggie’s fund) became a way for us to pay it forward,” Cyndi McGinnis said.

Miracles From Maggie helps provide direct support to families experiencing the effects of childhood cancer and other life-threatening illnesses, including a therapeutic riding program, partnerships with the Make-a-Wish Foundation, pediatric cancer research and other supportive programs through Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh.

The McGinnises moved to Glenwood Springs five years ago to oversee the farm owned by Cyndi’s brother and sister-in-law. This year, in honor of the 10th anniversary of Maggie’s passing, they wanted to extend those efforts to the Roaring Fork Valley, she said.

“This has been a way to give our pain purpose, and a way of healing for us,” she said.

Meet Manuela

Manuela Perez loves rainbows. She enjoys seeing them in the sky and having her picture taken with them. She also likes to draw and paint rainbows.

But these days, too many of her rainbows are seen through the window of her room at Children’s Hospital in Denver. She paints her pictures between cancer treatments.

“She is a very strong girl, and very resilient,” said her father, Felipe Perez. “She keeps busy with her art, and she’s very active. That has helped a lot, and she has a very positive mindset.”

But she doesn’t like that she has lost her hair due to the cancer treatments, and she wants a wig. Felipe and her mom, Sylvia Perez, are working with Children’s to have a wig designed for Manuela, but that’s just one of the many things they could use some help with, Felipe said.

“When we got the diagnosis, she was not insured,” said Felipe, who is in the United States on a work visa from Colombia and is a Spanish language teacher at Basalt High School.

Sylvia is also a teacher but had to give up her job to care for Manuela, including the time and expense for regular trips to Denver to receive treatments.

“It’s getting very expensive, so this will help with covering some of the medical expenses,” Felipe said. “A lot of people have been supportive, including Maggie’s parents.”

Manuela also has a brother, who’s 14, and a baby sister.

McGinnis said that one of her Miracles From Maggie committee members knew of the Perezes and referred them to the organization for some help. As it turns out, the McGinnises learned they attended the same church, St. Stephen Catholic Church in Glenwood Springs, as the Perez family. So, they’ve since gotten to know each other, McGinnis said. 

Mountain miracle

Argonaut Farm for many years has hosted the cross country ski and snowshoeing events as part of the annual Special Olympics Winter Games for the Western Slope.

The McGinnises have wanted to do a running event on the premises as a benefit for the childhood cancer fund, and Saturday’s race will be the first public charity event at the farm, McGinnis said.

Enter avid runner and race organizer Rick Chavez of Glenwood Springs, who was introduced to the McGinnises by Michelle James at Vicki Lee Green Realtors, and agreed to put together Maggie’s Mountain Run.

“I’ve done a lot of work with races in Texas and other places, and when I heard this was for a good cause, I said ‘sure,’” said Chavez, who’s son, Jordan, used to be a member of the U.S. mountain running team.

Argonaut is the perfect setting for a trail race, but it will be a challenging course, especially the 10K, Chavez said.

“It’s like a Forest Service road, maybe a little rougher, with 1,700 feet of climbing in the first 3 or 4 miles,” he said.

The shorter 5K event also has about 700 feet of elevation gain, but is not as challenging as the 10K, he said.

“Either way, you get some beautiful views back across the Flat Tops and up toward Sunlight,” Chavez said. “The mile fun run is just up and back, so that’s a nice option.”

Online registration is closed, but registration will still be taken on site Saturday morning.

The 10K begins at 7:30 a.m., followed by the 5K at 8:30 and the mile run at 9 a.m. Entry is $35, and there will be hamburgers and other food and drink at the finish line party.