YORK, Neb. — Three men are running 3,000 miles across the United States to raise awareness and thousands of dollars.
They’re a part of Miles 2 Give, a foundation that raises money for sarcoma cancer research through cross-country ultrarunning.
The runners stopped for a break in York on Thursday.
Landon Cooper started the foundation when he lost a friend to sarcoma cancer.
“The year before she died, I ran a marathon relay for her just to show love and support,” Cooper said.
“On that day, I had the feeling that more needed to be done.”
He walked away from his corporate job in the bar/restaurant/nightclub business and devoted his time to starting M2G.
John McKay, one of Cooper’s fellow runners on the trip, is a teacher in Colorado.
When his mom was diagnosed with cancer, he took a year off work to help take care of her and his family before she died.
Always an outdoor enthusiast, McKay took up running every day as a way to deal with his mom’s illness.
“It’s a great time to think and reflect on things,” he said.
He learned about Cooper’s M2G trip across the country when a friend posted something about it on her Facebook page.
The third team member, Ryan Priest, is a longtime long-distance friend of Cooper’s. Cooper asked him to join, so he put his education on hold and joined in the beginning fundraising.
None of the three men had met each other in person before this year.
Now, they’ve run more than 1,800 miles together with a little more than 1,100 miles to go.
They started on Feb. 14 at the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. Their goal is to be in Ocean City, Md., by July.
The men cover up to 30 miles a day.
They don’t take any days off because those who are fighting cancer don’t ever get a day off.
One of their goals is to raise $100,000 for sarcoma research. As of Friday afternoon, they had raised $64,942.
Their other goal is to raise awareness for what is often called “the forgotten cancer.”
Sarcoma is a cancer of the connective tissue, which includes bones, muscles, fat, nerves and tendons. In adults, sarcoma represents 1 percent of all newly diagnosed cancers. Because only a small number of people are affected, government-backed sarcoma research grants are hard to come by.
For every $55,000 M2G raises, a new research grant can be made to fund sarcoma research.
Before the men started, they bought an RV that they use to sleep in and store their supplies.
It’s also become a memorial of sorts to sarcoma cancer survivors and those who have succumbed to cancer.
“Each day we dedicate to someone who is battling sarcoma cancer,” Cooper said. “Then we call them and let that sarcoma warrior family know we’re running for them.”
They then write the names of the cancer fighters on their faces and they say a tribute to them.
“I’ve discovered that in my efforts to change my life, I’ve found there are more family and friends in my life that have had sarcoma than I know,” Cooper said.
The runners were greeted in York by a hot dog fundraiser for them and their cause in East Hill Park.
Kendell Holthus, Natalie Schlegelmilch and Dylan Odom — all sarcoma cancer survivors — were there with their families as well as the family of Knox Lewis, a local child who died from sarcoma.
“It’s nice because these things are targeted toward lesser-known cancers,” Dylan’s father, Dave Odom said.
“These kinds of guys are very important.”
Cooper’s plans for M2G extend beyond this giant trip across the U.S.
“We plan to run across one country every year, and we’ll fill the time in between those tours with love and support,” he said.
“Stress kills, but love and positivity heals.”
For more information on M2G, to dedicate a day of the team’s run to a cancer survivor or to contact one of the team members, visit the group’s website at www.miles2give.org.