Franklin Countys First News

Running around the country for a cause

Left to right is Naeha Breeland, Landon Cooper and Everett Smith. Also running, but not pictured, is Mary Flinders.

Left to right is Naeha Breeland, Landon Cooper and Everett Smith. Also running, but not pictured, is Mary Flinders.

NEW SHARON - Landon Cooper calls the 1994 Winnebago "life elevated."

For four, long-distance runners and more than 10,000 miles, it looks more like life cramped. Beds snugged up against car seats, camping mats carpeting the floor. Pictures are tacked against the cupboards, pennants spelling out "run, give, inspire" compete with the rear-view mirror for airspace.

Then there are the names. On the walls, on the stickers on the walls, the faux wood paneling: "good luck," "be safe," "inspired," "blessed." Names scattered across the eastern seaboard, from Times Square in New York City to New Sharon. They've got another 10,000 miles or so to go, and one imagines they'll be writing on the windows before they get past the Great Lakes.

On the ceiling, fewer notes but more names. Each represents someone who has battled cancer.

"We've had so much kindness," runner Naeha Breeland said, standing outside the green RV near Sandy River Farm Supply in New Sharon. "To pass on this message and awareness, it's a beautiful thing."

Miles 2 Give, Inc. is a non-profit organization that raises money to cure Sarcoma, a form of cancer. Cooper, the founder and one of four runners, walked away from what he termed his "so-called life" in southern California after a friend was diagnosed and later died from the disease. In 2013, Cooper and runners Ryan Priest and John McKay ran from San Francisco, Calif. to Ocean Beach, Maryland to raise funding for Sarcoma research.

Running across the country took the Miles 2 Give team 157 days. This year, they're running around it.

Beginning in Times Square in New York City, N.Y. on April 29, Cooper, Breeland and fellow runners Everett Smith and Mary Flinders, have been running through the country's perimeter states. They've been traveling counter-clockwise, covering approximately 570 miles in 15 days. They're hoping to make it through the Great Lake states and hit Seattle, Wash. on Independence Day. Ideally, the team arrives back in Times Square in mid-December. That would make it eight months, roughly 10,500 miles and, hopefully, $500,000 toward Sarcoma research.

One runner generally goes at a time, with the others working out of the RV. Each runner has their own jobs to perform: Breeland works to plan events and organize fundraising, Smith is the tour chef and Flinders is the videographer.

Cooper calls the RV "life elevated" after the state of Utah's slogan; Utah is where Cooper went to begin distance training after he walked away from his life in California. He said he seeks to create a similar feeling as the team travels the country, to let people feel as if they're not alone, to share the story. Each name on the RV's ceiling represents someone who battles, or battled cancer, and each day the team picks a name and rights it on their faces.

People approach the team as they pass, Cooper said, with hugs and letters and stories about their own struggles with Sarcoma, or a loved one that passed."This rare form of cancer is not as rare as we think it is," Cooper said. That connectivity is important, he said.

Cooper has his own connection with Maine, having run his first marathon in Bar Harbor a dozen years ago. It will be, he said, a hard state to leave, "but easy to come back."

The team's day-to-day progress can be tracked on its Facebook page, located here. Donations are accepted on the Miles 2 Give website, and are tax-deductible.

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