June 20, 2014 11:06:56 AM
Saturday, Gov. Phil Bryant will run in the third annual 5K Run for Health in honor of the late infant son of a Columbus native.
John Pearson Clay died in March after being born with Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome. He was four months old. HLHS is a severe congenital heart defect in which the left side of the heart is underdeveloped.
John Pearson's father, Wesley, is a native of Columbus. His grandmother, Malinda Clay, encouraged local citizens to travel to Jackson to run in the race. All proceeds from the race will benefit Batson Children's Hospital and will be given in John Pearson's honor.
"Hopefully you will never have to have the type of care that they offer down there but it's right there, even though it's two-and-a-half hours away, it's at your back door," Malinda Clay said.
John Pearson stayed at Batson for the duration of his life. Malinda Clay said she is asking people to run because she has seen firsthand the type of care the doctors and nurses provide.
"The doctors and the nurses are some of the most wonderful people that I've come across," she said. "They loved that baby boy as much as we did. What money is being raised here, that's a great institution and they have the welfare and the care of these children as the utmost important in their lives."
In a press release issued by the governor's office, Bryant spoke of John Pearson.
"This is our third run benefiting Blair E Batson and our first to benefit the Pediatric Heart Center," Bryant said in the release. "Mississippians love to help and now they are getting healthy doing it. Deborah (Bryant) and I are not only doing this to raise money to help raise awareness for heart defects and diseases in children but also in memory of John Pearson Clay, a child who touched many lives. Registration is still open, and we encourage families, individuals and teams to come join us for a fun, healthy morning."
Dr. Rick Barr, Suzan B. Thames Professor and Chair of Pediatrics at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, said Batson Children's Hospital helps children like John Pearson everyday.
"The Children's Heart Center is such an important part of our organization and a real center of excellence for all children with congenital heart defects," Barr said in the release. "Our lives are all touched by children like John Pearson Clay and their families every day."
Pre-race festivities begin at 7 a.m. on Saturday in front of the Mississippi Governor's Mansion at 300 East Capitol St. in Jackson. The 5K begins at 8 a.m. and is followed by a half-mile Kid's Fun Run at 9:30 a.m.
Sarah Fowler covered crime, education and community related events for The Dispatch.
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