After participating in three 5ks since September, Jessica Santellana got the idea to organize a 5K of her own.

The Victoria registered nurse had already been thinking of ways to help raise funds for her cancer-fighting nephew, JJ Santellana.

"This would be something he would enjoy, too," she said.

Santellana said she's gotten sponsorships from locally owned businesses and support from her coworkers at Citizens Medical Center.

"It's coming together," she said.

The "Be My Hero JJ 5K" starts at 9 a.m. on Dec. 3 at Riverside Park. Registration starts at 8 a.m., and there are limited shirts available.

JJ will turn 5 years old the day after the 5K.

Proceeds from the superhero-themed 5K will benefit JJ's family, which has recently moved to Katy to be closer to the MD Anderson Cancer Center.

The family has been relying on credit cards to help with the move, loss of work and JJ's cancer treatment.

"They're swamped," she said. "This will help them just a little bit."

In March 2014, her nephew was diagnosed with Wilms' tumor, a rare cancer that starts in the kidneys and primarily affects children. After six months of chemo, he went into remission until March, when doctors found cancer had spread to his lungs.

His mother, Claire Santellana, said JJ had surgery Nov. 3 to remove the tumor from his right lung, and his doctors will start him on a harsh regimen of drugs next month.

"We're going to try that and just pray that he stays clear," she said.

But she says despite his diagnosis, JJ is just as active and caring as ever.

"He's doing really well. I can't get him to sit still," she said.

In September, JJ asked if he could collect pillows for the homeless, and Crossroads residents came through with an overwhelming amount of pillows and bottled water.

This time, JJ wants to collect canned food for people in Venezuela, a country facing a dire food shortage.

Claire Santellana said JJ's best friend, Diego, from the hospital, lives in Venezuela.

She always heard about the crisis from a coworker at school.

Jessica Santellana said she hopes the fundraiser will help ease some of the financial burden on JJ's family.

"JJ just wants to help everyone else," she said.

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Features Editor

Laura has covered health and nonprofits in the Crossroads since 2014. She's also mom to a toddler, loves journalism conferences and is a big fan of sci-fi and crime TV.

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