MARQUETTE - The spirit of Jodi Hill Ball lives on.
Hundreds of people will take to the streets of Negaunee Saturday May 3 to help raise funds for an organization Jodi dreamed of starting. And Jodi's mother said she knows what her daughter's reaction would be.
"Jodi would say 'Look how our communities have come together for a great cause. This is awesome,'" Delight Hill said.
A group gathers during the first Just Believe Run/Walk which honors Jodi Ball, who battled melanoma. (Courtesy photo)
Jodi Hill Ball, left, joins husband Kurt and children Nathan and Ashley in a pose at Disney World during a trip the family took one of Jodi’s “bucket list”?wishes. (Courtesy photo)
Gwinn native Jodi Hill Ball was diagnosed with melanoma in May 2011 and fought a two-year battle with the disease. She died on Feb. 10, 2013. She was just 38 years old.
The May 3 event is a 5K Run/Walk to benefit Just Believe, a non-profit organization formed in loving memory of Jodi Ball. The run begins at the Negaunee Ice Arena at 10 a.m. that day.
"This year, we're having a competitive run first," said Kurt Ball, Jodi's husband. "It will be nice to get some competitive runners out for the event. Then the non-competitive run-walk will start after that."
With the tough winter the area experienced, the course this year will be along County Road 480 and then onto Ann Street, rather than through the Iron Ore Heritage Trail as was done in 2013.
"Jodi and I talked about creating an organization like this about six months before she passed," Ball said. "We want to repay the generosity of what people did for us when Jodi got sick. What people did for us was phenomenal.
"This organization is our chance to pay it forward and to help other families."
Just Believe has already done that.
"We've given out about $8,800 this first year," Ball said. "We gave to different charities, to a scholarship in Negaunee and one in Gwinn, and to help support people with medical problems."
The Ball children, Nathan, 13, and Ashley, 10, have been involved in Just Believe from the start.
"And they've helped present the scholarships and donations," Kurt Ball said. "They helped give the checks to UPAWS. It's a beautiful way for them to remember their mom."
Jodi Hill Ball worked for the Marquette Alger Regional Educational Service Agency as assistant to the superintendent. She was active with the Negaunee Township Fire Department and was part of the Big Brothers-Big Sisters organization.
"Jodi, she was one of the most giving people I have known," Ball said. "I never heard her say anything bad about anyone. Everyone liked her. She was definitely a special person. If you read her blog, you can see that."
The blog, which can be found at ballfamily49866.blogspot.com, was called An Amazing Brain and chronicled Jodi's battle with cancer. Here is just one entry, posted by Jodi just a few days after she began her fight against cancer:
"I wanted to send out a quick blog just to thank everyone! It's completely overwhelming to me how generous people have been. From the well wishes/prayers/concern, to the food delivered to our door (the first day of real meals that I truly enjoyed since all of this... thank you to Brian and Michelle Anderson and Jon and Sara Beckman and families), the 'Fight Like a Girl T-shirt' from Tricia Brisson, the prayer book from a retired coworker, angels, books for my children on having a parent with cancer, the numerous cards/flowers/emails... I can't begin to thank you all enough!!!!!! (I've even had a neighbor offer a piece of her liver!)
While I plan to get thank you cards out to everyone individually, I want to thank you all from the bottom of my heart!!!!"
Kurt Ball said the run/walk was scheduled for May quite intentionally.
"With May being Melanoma Awareness Month, that's the big reason we have it then," he said. "That's important to us."
For more information on Just Believe, visit www.jodisbelieve.com.
Renee Prusi can be contacted at 906-228-2500, ext. 253. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.