Run Across America for children and Veterans – Steve Knowlton, Terry Hitchcock
Starting the morning of July 5, 2014, Terry and Steve headed out to run 75 days covering 600 miles of heat through the dreaded Mojave Desert, California, Arizona, New Mexico, northern Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Tennessee, Kentucky and Virginia.
Terry’s son Chris was their solo crew leader, just like in 1996, when he completed the entire journey with his dad and helped to prepare nutritionally and logistically.
Just 500 miles in, Chris had a diabetic seizure so Terry needed to take care of his son. From back home in Minnesota, both Terry and Chris continued to support Steve via phone and email, and Chris helped with social media updates.
Alone on the road with 2,500 miles ahead of him, Steve bought a baby stroller, loaded his gear into it and kept running. He stayed with pastors along the way, with his mom calling various churches along the route in advance.
Near-misses with semi-trucks, sightings of mountain lions, nor the exhausting heat of the desert could stop Steve.
In a way, the physical and emotional strains strengthened the 50-year-old runner from Prior Lake in his attempt to raise awareness for veterans struggling with homelessness, joblessness and suicide.
Along the way, people offered him meals, paid for hotel and motel rooms and donated to the cause. Veterans shared their stories of seeking help — and often failing to receive it — from the federal government.
“It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, running in that heat,” he said. “I look back and think, ‘How did I start out those days, the way I felt, knowing I had 40 miles to run?’” But he added “My passion for this cause grew as I ran. I met some incredible people along the way, so many veterans.”
After 88 days Steve completed his second run across America.
He arrived in Washington DC on September 30, 2014, at the White House to chat with our President about the needs of veterans.
“We have 22 vets a day taking their own lives,” he said. “Our country’s veterans are not being acknowledged for their sacrifices.”
Though Steve is not a veteran himself, a close friend committed suicide a few years ago, just three days after trying to check himself into the hospital and being sent home with sleeping pills.
“There need to be regulations to make sure VAs are equipped to take on veterans who need help. And if they can’t, to make sure there’s access to private hospitals and clinics,” he said. “When someone is dealing with depression and hopelessness, they can’t wait a month or two to get help.”
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