The Pacin’ Parson is at it again.
Don Stevenson, 81, has taken to the streets of King County to raise awareness and money for victims of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), more commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, after the famous baseball player.
This charity walk started Nov. 18 and he’ll be walking around Auburn, Orting, Puyallup and Sumner until Dec. 22, using a walker “to show empathy for victims of the disease,” he said.
He has dedicated this walk to a member of his Bonney Lake Church of the Nazarene congregation who was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s a year ago.
Stevenson is famous for his charity walks, which he started in 1998 on a 3,000- mile trek from Seattle to Portland, Maine, for Alzheimer’s awareness.
In total, he’s logged more than 67,000 miles for charity walks over the course of almost 20 years.
Next May is expected to be his last charity walk, which will be for wounded vets. Stevenson hasn’t decided what organization to team up with, but he plans to walk 3,000 miles, possibly from Auburn to the geological center of North America, near Rugby, North Dakota.
When pressed, however, he admits he’s pronounced his charity walking career to be at an end multiple times before.
“I figure I’ll retire in heaven,” he said.
After his supposed last charity walk, Stevenson plans to focus on publishing his books, including a book of poetry and a book of his sermons.
Lou Gehrig’s disease is not just one, but a group of neurological diseases that involve the neurons that control voluntary muscle movement in the brain.
Overtime, these neurons degenerate or die, and muscles no longer receive messages from the brain to move. It starts slowly, but eventually, voluntary muscle movement becomes impossible.
It’s estimated between 14,000 to 15,000 Americans have Lou Gehrig’s disease, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, and most people with the disease die from respiratory failure within 3 to 5 years of symptoms first appearing.
Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis was discovered in 1869 but was made more famous by baseball player Henry Louis Gehrig in 1939, when he voluntarily removed himself from the New York Yankees lineup because of the disease. Gehrig died two years later.
To donate to Stevenson’s efforts, contact the ALS Association, or visit alsa.org.