Distance runner: DeKalb man has been fundraising for Leukemia & Lymphoma Society for 18 years

DeKALB – Last year, Mark Gregory of DeKalb made more than $10,000 during his annual garage sale.

But instead of pocketing the cash and planning a vacation or putting it toward a new car, he donated the profits to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.

Gregory hosted his 18th annual benefit garage sale for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society last weekend. Over the years, he has raised more than $150,000, with the proceeds going to the research of blood cancers. Since 2017, LLS has helped advance more than 85% of FDA-approved blood cancer treatment options, which have led to breakthrough treatments for other cancers and serious diseases.

Gregory has also been running and coaching marathons with LLS’ Team in Training for the past 18 years. He’s run 20 marathons and 47 half marathons.

“I initially started running because I joined a co-ed soccer team and wanted to stay in shape,” Gregory said. “When I ran my first 5K, I beat my younger brother, so I thought I’d stick with it. At the time, we lived in Indianapolis, which used to have the largest half marathon. It was sold out, but you could run through a nonprofit organization. That’s when I first heard about the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.”

Gregory runs, coaches and fundraises for LLS’ Team in Training in honor of his mother, Verla, who died from leukemia at age 38; his sister Janet who died from colon cancer at age 23; his sister-in-law Angie, who has non-Hodgkin lymphoma; and Russell Witek of Geneva, who died from a brain tumor at age 14.

During this year’s three-day garage sale, Gregory had thousands of items for sale, including furniture, household items, collectibles, and more than 250 CDs, 100 DVDs and 1,000 books. The items were placed on 45 tables and shelves in Gregory’s front yard and two-car garage. He also set up four large tents, which shaded 800 square feet dedicated to the sale.

Gregory and about 10 volunteers spent more than 40 hours setting up the sale.

Gregory receives donations from friends and community members throughout the year for the following year’s sale. He prices the items he receives throughout the year and renovates furniture to sell.

Gregory said the most unusual item he has sold was a 7-Eleven slushee machine for about $100. He also held a silent auction and raised $1,000 selling 1930s wooden grandstand seats from Wrigley Field.

Items that are not sold during the garage sale are either sold on Facebook Marketplace to raise additional money for LLS or donated to local charities, including Hope Haven, Tails Humane Society, the Salvation Army and Goodwill. This year, he received eight cases of votive candles that he donated to a local church.

Gregory has been recognized with awards from the LLS and his alma mater, Judson University, for his fundraising through the years.

“People often come from all over for the garage sale, and they often come back every year,” Gregory said. “They see my sign or learn about the cause, and they tell me they’re a cancer survivor or that their friend or family member was recently diagnosed. Hearing their stories encourages me to keep going. It reminds me why I’m doing it and that I’m making a difference.”

To donate, visit Gregory’s website, https://pages.lls.org/tnt/chi/yourway22/mgregory, or mail or drop off a check, payable to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, to Mark Gregory, 117 E. Royal Drive, DeKalb, IL 60115. For more information about the garage sale and fundraising, call Gregory at 815-756-9469.

Katrina Milton

Katrina J.E. Milton

Award-winning reporter and photographer for Shaw Media publications, including The Daily Chronicle and The MidWeek newspapers in DeKalb County, Illinois, since 2012.