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Local Column

Schrader: Fighting cystic fibrosis with trek of a lifetime

David Kuhn may be 61 years old and blind, but he aspires to run around the United States in an effort to raise money to fight cystic fibrosis.

His motivation comes from his 12-year-old granddaughter Kylie, who suffers from the debilitating disease.

Kuhn has the credentials to tackle his 11,000-mile odyssey on foot, having completed two Chicago marathons, the California International marathon, and three Boston marathons, including last month, which he finished in 6 hours and 15 minutes with the help of a sighted runner to whom he was connected by a foot-long tether tied around their thumbs.

I met him at his South Fourth Street home in DeKalb before he departed this week to Seattle to begin running Thursday along with sighted companions from the running groups in the Pacific Northwest. He said his blindness is caused by a progressive condition called posterior staphyloma, which was triggered years ago from an auto accident caused by a drunken driver. He can see light, but not shapes or obstacles. At his home I also met his trek organizer Renee Kopulos, a Ph.D candidate at Northern Illinois University whom he calls his “mission control.”

Kopulos will not be able to start the race in Seattle with him, but she is handling most of the logistics, setting up his webpage,, Twitter (@AllICanDoIsRun) and Facebook (It’s All I Can Do) accounts to promote fundraising and keep people up to date on his progress.

They figure it will take at least 14 months to complete the route, which goes from Seattle to Bangor, Maine, then zigzags through the eastern seaboard states to Jacksonville, Florida, spending the winter months going through the south to San Diego, then up the West Coast back to the starting point. Meanwhile, his wife, Chris Myroth, who works at NIU’s Founders Library, will keep the home fires burning.

He also mentioned a stop along the way where he will take time out to train for a Half Ironman triathlon, which includes a 56-mile bike ride, 1.2-mile swim and then a 13.1-mile run, sometime in June.

Kuhn has faith he will find running companions all around the country, plus volunteers willing to drive behind him to provide food, water and protection from vehicular traffic.

“I would like to find someone willing to loan me a motor home so I can save the cost of lodging,” he said. He also hopes to find homes where he can stay along the route.

He has wanted to pursue this fundraising effort for years as he watched his granddaughter’s condition worsen. She is now being home schooled by her parents in Springfield, Missouri.

“Everything finally came together this year with the help of Renee and some other runners I have come to know around the country,” he said. “I am willing to invest my own savings to make it happen, but have hopes of raising up to $500,000 for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.”

To make a donation to the foundation, people can go to his webpage and click on Donate Now, then follow the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation website link. Those who do not use the internet can send a check to the foundation at CFF Greater Chicago Chapter, Attn: Amy Kozyra, 150 N. Michigan Ave., Suite 1550, Chicago, IL 60601, and note Kuhn’s name on the check .

To help Kuhn with his expenses, mail a check made out to David Kuhn, 938 Prospect St., DeKalb, IL 60115. He begins his run Thursday at Myrtle Edwards Park in Seattle, near the offices of the CFF, and heads next to the Pacific Ocean where Kuhn intends to dip his foot, then later do the same in the Atlantic Ocean.

• Barry Schrader can be reached via email at or at P.O. Box 851, DeKalb, IL 60115. His column appears every other Tuesday.

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