Jay Copp 2013-05-14 16:40:53
Stepping Up Against Blindness The average American takes 5,117 steps a day. For someone like Lion Don Stevenson of Washington, that’s child’s play, baby steps, an easy walk in the park. Stevenson averaged 36,000 steps a day over 12 weeks last summer. The “Pacing Parson,” as he is known, walked from Rugby, North Dakota, the geographical center of North America, to the Pacific Ocean near Seattle. That’s 1,508 miles, part of which he did without seeing where he was going. When someone joined Stevenson– often a Lion–he gripped his white cane, covered his eyes with a blindfold and soldiered on. Stevenson is 77. His latest jaunt was not even close to his longest or toughest. In 2000 he strolled 4,000 miles from Tijuana, Mexico, to Anchorage, Alaska, to raise funds for multiple sclerosis. Four years later he hiked blindfolded across the steep Cascade Range for charity. In 2007 he hoofed it from Seattle to New York City, and, not content with this little jaunt, ambled all the way back. He meandered on back roads and didn’t take a straight route, so he logged 13,000 miles. Ever since his father-in-law died of Alzheimers and he honored his memory and raised awareness of the disease through a 3,000-mile cross-country trek in 1998, he’s covered more than 45,000 miles on 18 walks, enough to circle the globe almost twice. His stride is fast and purposeful. “When someone walks with him, they usually slow him down,” says Janet Emig, a fellow member of the Bonney Lake Lions. Emig and her husband, Bruce, accompanied Stevenson for 12 days. Bruce sometimes walked alongside him. Stevenson proved to be a minor celebrity in towns where newspapers had published advance stories or residents (including Lions) provided dinner or a place to stay. “People recognized him. They’re very impressed by him, especially considering his age,” says Emig. Stevenson has had a colorful life. He joined the Marines after dropping out of school. He later completed high school, studied theology and pastored several churches. He also drove 18-wheelers, fought fires, saved lives as an EMT and wrote self-published inspirational books. He started walking around town to improve his health and spiritual life. Years ago his older brother died while battling multiple sclerosis, and his sister has the disease, too. So it was always easy to find a reason to walk for causes. Stevenson’s wife, Loretta, drove a support van for his latest walk, which was done to honor Nicholas Premo, 12, the son of friends of Stevenson. Nicholas was born blind. The walk didn’t raise as nearly as much money as Stevenson had hoped for his club, which sponsored his journey. But he was able to present nearly $8,000 to the Eye Institute at the University of Washington. As Stevenson knows better than anyone, it’s the small steps forward that lead to substantial gains.
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