The scholarship started at $2,000, but was promptly bumped up to $3,000.
And then there was an extra $1,000 available for another scholarship.
And let’s not forget that there was still $1,500 left to give to the Colon Cancer Alliance – and all of this money was the result of the very first time Steph’s Fall 5K was organized and executed.
“Steph…she would be extremely pleased with what has taken place, because she was just so much about helping other people,” said Mary Godri, mother of Stephanie Godri-Johnston, an area native who passed away from colon cancer and who the event is organized in honor of.
Stephanie was merely 32 years old when she passed away in May of 2012 due to a type of cancer most often seen in people 50 years of age or older: colon cancer, which is the second-leading cause of cancer-related death in the U.S., according to the Colon Cancer Alliance.
Though she was young when she passed away, Stephanie used the time she did have to give as much as she could to the world around her. She was a 1998 graduate of Wyoming Area, where she joined its cross country and track and field teams, even breaking the school’s junior high shot put and senior high discus records. She earned a BS in Chemistry in 2002 from King’s College.
While her husband was deployed to Iraq, Stephanie took a job teaching at St. Michael’s School in Wailua, Hawaii, where she also enrolled in college and earned a Master of Arts in Education. At Fort Drum, N.Y., she volunteered at the Augustine Academy, organizing the yearbook and serving as an Army Family Readiness Group Leader.
In January of 2011, after experiencing abdominal discomfort for some time, Stephanie underwent a colonoscopy, during which a tumor was found. A biopsy was taken of the mass, and it was discovered she had stage IV colon cancer. The discovery surprised the family, as Mary said there was no history of colon cancer on either her or her husband’s side.
After several rounds of medication and chemotherapy, doctors shrank the once softball-sized tumor, but the seeds of the disease had broken through the wall of the intestine and taken root in her abdomen. Treatment continued until February of 2012.
“She realized the treatments weren’t working,” Mary said, “and it was her choice to stop.”
Mary said Stephanie maintained a great outlook through the whole ordeal, even going so far as to point out that, had you not known she was afflicted with cancer by her telling you, you would have no idea. Stephanie was the strong, silent type, even through exhaustion from treatments and discomfort from the disease itself.
“She would continue to do things; she was always concerned about other people,” Mary said. “I think the reason she maybe never complained is that she didn’t want any of us to be upset, and so she just silently put up with it.”
Stephanie’s family and friends have organized Steph’s Fall 5K to pay homage to the young woman who touched many throughout her life. This continues through the Stephanie Godri-Johnston Memorial Scholarship, created to help a college-bound senior who has successfully balanced academics, athletics, additional extra-curricular activities, and volunteering during his or her time at Wyoming Area.
The family not only wants to honor someone who exemplifies the qualities Stephanie had, but to raise awareness about colon cancer.
“We want people to be aware of it, and go for the screening,” Mary said. “Colon cancer is often considered an ‘old person’s disease,’ so young people are overlooked; it’s the last thing they usually thing of. Getting a screening and checking for polyps, which is where it all starts, could save someone’s life.”
Steph’s Fall 5k is a chip-timed, wheel-measured 5 kilometer (3.1 mile) run, 3 km (1.86 mi) walk, and a kids fun run through the grounds of the Luzerne County Sports Complex. It is a flat, mostly grass course with two rolling hills.