PUBLISHED: | UPDATED:

DRACUT — A 7-year-old boy’s wish came a step closer to reality as about 100 runners lined up for the Little Battlers Foundation 5-kilometer road race at Saint Francis Church on Nov. 4.

The event, a first for the foundation and hopefully the start of an annual event, was organized to raise money for The Jimmy Fund and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

“I wish that kids wouldn’t have to get sick and have cancer anymore,” said Julien Sauls, who was diagnosed with leukemia three years ago at age 4.

Julien’s father, Wade Sauls, was inspired by Julien’s words and founded the Little Battlers Foundation, a nonprofit group that provides support and assistance to children with life-threatening or debilitating diseases. It also organizes fundraising activities to support medical research.

The elder Sauls planned the organization’s first fundraising event on the anniversary of Julien’s diagnosis as a symbol of hope for others.

“The first month that I was in the hospital with Julien, I remember laying in there and deciding that when he was healthier I wanted to try to do something to help sick kids with life-threatening conditions,” Sauls said. “It’s a life-altering experience when you spend any time in Children’s Hospital because you realize that there are so many children who are fighting for their lives from various diseases.”

Julien completed his chemotherapy treatment about a year ago and the cancer in remission. Now he and his father want to give back to others in need.

A 1-mile “fun run” for the younger runners started at 10:30 a.m. before the main event, a 5-kilometer race that went off at 10:45 a.m.

Ed Doreau of Salem, Mass., was first in the men’s category with a time of 17 minutes, 26 seconds, followed seven seconds later by Dustin Baker of North Chelmsford.

Leading the women’s field was Julie Kandrut of Methuen with a time of 20 minutes, 43 seconds, while Peggy Gioioso of Methuen finished second, four seconds behind the winner.

Dracut Fire Chief Leo Gaudette put on his running shoes for the race. “It was a good race and for a good cause,” he said.

The event raised about $9,000 and Sauls planned to make it an annual event in Dracut.

“I was very pleased with the turnout, especially being the first year and everyone I spoke to had a great time,” Sauls said. “Our goal was to have a good event so that people will come back next year.”

Anyone interested in becoming a sponsor or making a donation can send a payment to: Citizens Bank C/O Little Battlers Foundation Fund, 1776 Massachusetts Avenue, Lexington, MA 02420.

Have a story idea? Contact Heidi Smith at 978-970-4653 or e-mail at hsmith@thevalleydispatch.com.