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Peonies for Diane – St. Louis Undy 5000

February 14, 2012

Meet “Peonies for Diane,” a new team dedicated to participating in and fundraising for the upcoming St. Louis Undy 5000. Traveling from Chicago to St. Louis, they are already the top St. Louis Undy 5000 fundraising team, with already more than $1,900 raised out of their $2,000 goal!

Peonies for Diane was originally a fundraiser created after Diane Rath, an oil painter who specialized in peonies, was diagnosed with stage IV colon cancer just after her 56th birthday. Lucy Rath (Diane’s daughter) and her two siblings started this fundraiser to sell some of her paintings because she had no health insurance when she was diagnosed. The first fundraiser was an art show with Diane’s work in a tiny Lake Bluff train station, and within an hour, almost all of her artwork was sold. Three more fundraisers were organized, and Diane’s medical bills got a little lighter.

Diane paints peonies

Despite the financial help, her health deteriorated quickly, and Diane only made it 8 months until she had to be put in hospice care. Lucy said that even though she was restricted in what she could do at that point, the positive vibe coming off of her mother was always so great. Diane lived a very artistic and free-spirited life, and it seemed nothing could ever bring her down. She passed away in September 2011.

Many lives were touched by Diane. She taught oil painting in Lake Forest, IL, and held workshops around the world from New Mexico to Paris. “She taught a lot of life lessons about having a positive vibe, and as a painter, never talking down your painting,” Lucy said. “She always used to say ‘If you say it’s going to look like garbage, it will!'”

The diagnosis, which happened on New Year’s Day in 2011, came as a blow to the family. Diane’s father was diagnosed with colon cancer when he was 99, but nobody thought that would ever impact the family the way it did, especially considering there were no other cancer scares. Because Diane used and believed in nontraditional medicines, she took lots of herbs and hoped for natural healing at first; especially since her doctor originally told her never to get a colonoscopy and that she likely just had a parasite, Lucy said. After a month of not getting better, Lucy said Diane’s stomach had expanded so much, she brought her to the hospital immediately. They were expecting many things: parasites, kidney stones, ulcers. But not cancer. And especially not stage IV colon cancer.

After being diagnosed, she was taken to Northwestern, and Lucy said she was blown away at how considerate and genuinely concerned the doctors and staff all were for Diane’s well being. While in chemo and treatment, Lucy and her siblings played different roles for Diane. Lucy did much of the marketing and fundraising for the medical bills, her brother took care of the finances, and her sister lived with Diane, being her primary caretaker.

Diane and Family

As for the Undy 5000, Lucy just recently found out about the event and said she couldn’t be more excited for it.

“We’re going to go all out,” she said. “The plan for now is to make T-shirts, and we’re going to see if we could get matching pink boxers and screen print them with some peonies. We also want peony tiaras. We want to do it big. We want to make a lasting impression.”

The family plans on selling some of the paintings and donating the proceeds to the St. Louis Undy 5000, which will in turn pour money back into the community to help with local colon cancer screening and treatment initiatives. For more information on her paintings, visit

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