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Fundraising with two good soles

Don Stevenson carried more than a walking stick and bottle of water as he hiked through Superior on Thursday. He brought compassion and two sturdy soles.

The 79-year-old pastor from Auburn, Wash., is in the midst of a 3,000-mile trek across the country to raise awareness and money for the Pulmonary Hypertension Association. The incurable disease is marked by high blood pressure in the lungs, which can lead to heart failure.

"We want the public to know about this disease," said Stevenson’s wife and support driver, Loretta.

To date, the "Pacing Parson" has logged nearly 60,000 miles walking for causes ranging from multiple sclerosis, Huntington’s disease and the American Cancer Society to spina bifida. The former Marine, teacher, author, poet, truck driver, firefighter and EMT has crisscrossed the country on foot, from Mexico to Alaska, East Coast to west.

"I found out one thing about America," Stevenson said. "It’s not the six o’clock news. People are better than that."

He recalled a server at Applebee’s who dipped into his pocket and handed his tips for the day — nearly $45 — to Stevenson after learning about the walk. There was a couple in Montana who stopped and offered him a ride. When he declined they brought him back a bottle of cold water. Hotel owners have offered them free rooms along the way.

Five hundred miles back, in Minot, N.D., Stevenson met Congressional Medal of Honor recipient Clint Romesha. A Marine staff sergeant, Romesha helped hold an Afghanistan outpost against overwhelming Taliban forces in October 2009. The two veterans walked in tandem for a few miles.

"He said he’d be honored to walk with me," Stevenson said. "I think he got it backwards."

The Parson has encountered plenty of wildlife, from grizzly bears and moose to rattlesnakes.

"If I don’t bother them; they don’t bother me," Stevenson said.

The Pacing Parson can travel 25 to 30 miles a day. Each cross country trip (he’s completed four so far) takes about three months and chews through six pairs of shoes, donated by Brooks Sports. This trip winds from Auburn, Wash. to Silver Springs, Md. Stevenson plans to follow U.S. Highway 2 through Wisconsin to Michigan on this leg of the trip. Drivers will know it’s him by the yellow vest and cheerful smile.

Walking gives Stevenson a chance to enjoy the landscape, relieve stress and stay in shape. Doing it for others gives him serenity.

"There are two types of people I meet," Stevenson said. "Those with peace of mind who care for others and those who are unhappy and only thinking of themselves.

"If you want peace, think of others."

He began his journey at age 62 with a walk for Alzheimer’s disease, dedicating it to his father-in-law. The 1998 trek was followed by a walk to all 22 of Washington’s lighthouses.

"I just wanted to extend awareness about Alzheimer’s back then," Stevenson said. "I had planned not to do anymore."

Then he began walking for multiple sclerosis, the disease that claimed the lives of two of Stevenson’s siblings. He’s hiked 20,000 miles fighting that disease. Others approached him, and he walked.

"He’s very compassionate," said Loretta. "God has given him good health; he wants to help people who suffer from these things."

This hike is for two of Stevenson’s senior parishioners — one who lost her fight with pulmonary hypertension and another who is battling it. It’s also for a young man named Cullen, a teenager who received a double lung-heart transplant because of the disease.

The couple, who have eight children, 45 grandchildren and 26 great-grandchildren, have spent their summers on the road for years. Is an end in sight?

"Never say never," Stevenson said.

To follow Stevenson’s journey or donate, go to or

Story Source: The above story is based on materials provided by SUPERIORTELEGRAM
Note: Materials may be edited for content and length

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