Don Stevenson, Auburn’s man of sole, is about to launch his latest long-distance dedication.
Stevenson, the Pacin’ Parson, plans to walk 3,000 miles across America – from Auburn to Silver Springs, Md. – to raise funds and awareness for pulmonary hypertension (PH), a high-blood pressure disease that affects the heart and lungs.
The walk officially begins at 9 a.m. Tuesday, June 9 from the steps of Auburn City Hall, 25 W. Main St. Supporters are welcome to attend.
Stevenson, who is six months from his 80th birthday, hinted last year at retirement from cross country walks after completing a 20,000-mile trek to benefit the National Multiple Sclerosis Society last year. But the former Marine, pastor, teacher, truck driver and firefighter has decided to walk the long road again.
“You know how that goes,” Stevenson said of retirement speculation. “I understand now what that admonition, ‘never say never,’ means. I hope folks forgive me for that change of mind.”
His latest walk ends at the Pulmonary Hypertension Association headquarters in Silver Springs on Sept. 16, the targeted goal. Stevenson plans to walk an average of 25-30 miles a day, following Highway 2 across the northern part of the U.S. His wife, Loretta, will drive a support vehicle ahead of him and secure overnight accommodations.
Stevenson plans to take Sundays off to rest.
On May 16, Stevenson completed 500 miles, reaching Libby, Mont., in the unofficial start of his walk. The head start increases the chances that the walk and return trip by car take place during good weather with an arrival to PHA’s Maryland headquarters by mid-September, Stevenson said.
Stevenson is dedicating his latest walk to Betty Mayfield, a friend and one of his church members, who recently died from PH.
“I visited her in the Auburn hospital and told her I would do a walk for PH to raise awareness and funds for research and do the walk in her honor,” Stevenson said. “She died a week or so later.”
Stevenson also is dedicating the walk to Dorothy Fitch, a friend who is struggling with PH, and to Cullen Steele, a Kent teen who recently received a double-lung and heart transplant and is making a strong recovery.
In 2010, Stevenson walked 1,200 miles around the perimeter of Washington state to help raise money for expenses related to Steele’s surgery.
Stevenson’s walk for PHA is his 20th since 1998 to raise money and awareness for medical causes he supports. He has walked more than 50,000 miles for various charities since 1998. Long-distance walking became his passion after his retirement in 1994.
Donors can support Stevenson by going to PHAssociation.org/PacingParson and following his journey @PHAssociation on Twitter and Pulmonary Hypertension Association on Facebook.
PHA asks that supporters add #PacingParsonPHA to their social media posts.
– PHA officials contributed to this report.