Auburn’s man of sole isn’t about to hang up his long-distance shoes.
Don Stevenson is preparing this year to do a 3,000-mile walk 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 79-year-old Stevenson 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.”
The walk begins in Auburn on June 11 and ends at the Pulmonary Hypertension Association headquarters in Silver Springs on Oct. 30. Stevenson plans to walk an average of 30 miles a day.
Stevenson, the “Pacing Parson,” 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, 14, a Kent boy who recently received a double-lung and heart transplant and is making a strong recovery.
Stevenson has walked more than 50,000 miles for various charities since 1998. Long-distance walking became his passion after his retirement in 1994.
In 2002, Stevenson walked 8,000 miles in Game Farm Park for multiple sclerosis. A year earlier, he walked 3,000 miles from Seattle to New York City for MS, and walked 4,000 miles from Tijuana, Mexico to Anchorage, Alaska for MS in 2000.
In all, Stevenson has walked 7,600 miles for Alzheimer’s; 20,000 miles for MS; 13,000 miles for Huntington’s disease; 2,400 miles for the American Cancer Society; 730 miles for spina bifida; and 2,086 miles for the Blind and Special Needs Kids.
He also has climbed Mount Rainier for the American Lung Association.
The walks have taken Stevenson across America three-and-a-half times; across Ontario, Canada; from Mexico to Alaska; to the 12,300-foot level of Mount Rainier, more than 18,750 miles around the state of Washington, and more than 106 miles blind folded across the Cascade Mountains.
To donate and to learn more about the cause, visit www.PHAssociation.org.