The late Izzy McManaway spurred support and awareness of the problems faced by children suffering with cancer and the struggles faced by their families. In her memory, and to provide support for other local families going through similar situations, the Iron Pigs Motorcycle Club will host Izzy's Walk, 5K Run and Softball Tournament on Saturday at Fayetteville Town Park.

FAYETTEVILLE — Many of those who take part in Saturday’s 7th annual Izzy’s Walk didn’t have the pleasure of knowing Izzy McManaway.

Others of the participants were blessed to have had the privilege of sharing Izzy’s life walk.

Many more have heard, though, the story of the youngster, of her determination and faith and love and joy through circumstances that would humble many an adult.

The life motto of the 4-year old, who fought bravely and with a gracious spirit for over half her life and yet ultimately succumbed to the ravages of rhabdomyosarcoma in February 2012, was “Keep Smilin’” and there will be lots of smiles on faces of young and old Saturday at Fayetteville Town Park as the Iron Pigs Motorcycle Club hosts Izzy’s Walk, a 5K run and a softball tournament.

The daughter of Corey and Jenny McManaway of Fayetteville, Izzy was the catalyst for a movement that brought together people from around the globe in a common purpose: Supporting Izzy. The child’s suffering with the rare form of muscle cancer, and the subsequent battles with chemotherapy and her resultant sickness, the amputation of her leg, radiation, trip after trip to the hospital, the fitting of a prosthetic leg, and more, combined with the decisions and duties and tasks no parents or families ever want to face to pull together countless people in a common cause. The town of Fayetteville reacted with grace, supporting the family with prayers, fundraisers and in numerous other ways.

And that spirit spread around the county, around the state, around the country and around the world. Izzy’s story even inspired Fayetteville resident Amy Clonch Thornton to write a book memorializing the sprightly, good-natured youngster.

The struggle and joy and loss and promise was a personal one for Thornton. She’s Jenny’s sister and Izzy’s aunt and Izzy’s story was one she felt had to be told.

“I couldn’t write fast enough to get it on paper,” Thornton told The Fayette Tribune in 2015 of her book, “Keep Smilin’: Izzy’s Story.” “But I knew it had to be done to encourage others who are going through the same kind of situation and to pay tribute to Izzy’s life and remember her.”

On publication of the book, Thornton told the Tribune she believes God gave her the words to tell Izzy’s story.

“These words for a children’s story came to me so quickly after Izzy’s death. It makes me pause to think, ‘Gosh, how many times did I miss that?’ God uses those times in our lives, the death of a loved one, to make us pause from our busy lifestyles and look at things in a new perspective,” she said.

It’s Izzy, though, who engendered the spirit of sharing and concern in so many people with her optimistic outlook on life that others couldn’t wait to share. “If I smile,” she told her parents during her conflict, “the devil will be mad. So I’m gonna keep smiling.”

Paying tribute to Izzy’s memory through events such as Saturday’s scheduled walk, 5K run and softball tournament allows organizers and supporters to reach out to other families.

Funds raised through Saturday’s events will go to support two local families whose children are suffering from life-threatening diseases.

Events Saturday begin at 10:30 a.m. Cost to pre-register for the walk is $25, $30 for the run and $125 per co-ed (5 and 5 or 6 and 4) softball team. Each softball team also must provide a 12-inch softball for women.

All entries and payments should be sent to IPMC, c/o Robert McMullen, 96 Ames Camp Road, Lansing WV 25862. Checks should be made payable to IPMC, which is a motorcycle club comprised mainly of first responders. The group is well known for its fundraising and charitable efforts in support of local children and families and youth sports organizations.

No individual or team who wishes to participate will be turned away because of the lack of pre-registration, but those who are pre-registered for the walk will receive a free Izzy’s Walk T-shirt. Extra T-shirts also will be available at the event and concessions will be offered for purchase.

For more information about the softball tournament, call Stacey Morris at 304-640-8226 or James Fizer at 304-380-5569, or email ipmcizzyswalk@gmail.com.

September is National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. According to the American Childhood Cancer Organization, each year in the United States, 15,780 children aged 19 and under are diagnosed with cancer.

— Email ckeenan@register-herald.com; follow on Twitter @Fayette_Cheryl

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