Unsung Hero: Christi Thompson Merritt

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By Ashley Smith
By Josue

NASHVILLE -- A Nashville native is celebrating her mother's life through a fun walk raising thousands of dollars for pancreatic cancer research.

"She was my best friend, we both loved dogs," said "Walk with the Dogs" coordinator Christi Thompson Merritt.

Christi Thompson Merritt's mother died from pancreatic cancer in 2005.

Christi was devastated to lose her mom and best friend but didn't want to mourn her death.

"I said 'I've got to do something to celebrate her life,'" said Christi.

Christi and her mom Jeanenne made a profession out of showing their dogs. Combining their love of dogs and the need for pancreatic cancer funding, Christi started "Walk with the Dogs" in her hometown of Nashville in 2005.

"Pancreatic cancer is a deadly disease," said Christi, "It takes everybody to rally together."

Christi says Pancreatic Cancer is one of the most under-funded and deadly forms of cancer. In its nine years, the walk has raised more than $148,000 for the Jeanenne Thompson Foundation.

"It is one of the most emotional, inspiring days, a lot of people have ever been involved in," said Christi.

Christi met Monica Colvin at a dog show 16 years ago. At that time, the two didn't know much about pancreatic cancer but they still had a lot in common.

"Christi and I are born less than three weeks apart and we're both crazy about dogs, we're both we both had high pressure professional careers, very similar in a lot of ways," said Christi's friend Monica Colvin.

Two years ago Monica's mother was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and died a short time later. Monica has participated in "Walk with the Dogs" every year.

"At first it was for the sake of Christi and her passion for raising funds and awareness," said Monica, "And now since it literally hit home it's even greater for me. The emotional outpouring is tremendous."

In addition to helping pancreatic cancer, a portion of the walk proceeds are donated to the Nashville Police Department to help their K-9 Officer Diego.

"Anytime I don't have to go to the city and ask for funds is a good thing so it's definitely a benefit. I'm very grateful for Christi for doing that," said Nashville Police Chief Brian Fletcher.

Christi says she knows her mom would be happy with that decision.

"She would have said 'that's great that you're raising awareness for pancreatic cancer but you need to do something for the dogs!'"

You and your furry K-9 are invited to Nashville to walk with the dogs next weekend and take a bite out of pancreatic cancer.

The walk is Saturday, June 7th at Memorial Park in Nashville. Registration and the silent auction will begin at 7:00 am with the walk beginning at 8. So far there are more than 100 silent auction items and more than 100 door prizes. The walk will cost $20 for an adult and $10 for kids.

You can register in person or you can find out more at this website.

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