Not many of us can run a marathon.
Earlier this month, Richard Nares began a run he says will cover 1,700 miles – the equivalent of 65 marathons. It began in Seattle, will end in San Diego, and along the way, Nares will pause long enough to celebrate his 65th birthday.
For Nares, a 2013 CNN Hero, it’s the journey of a lifetime. The run, named Richard’s Heart & Sole for Emilio, is intended to raise awareness and money to provide children with cancer free rides to their chemotherapy treatments.
Nares’ inspiration is his son, Emilio, who was diagnosed in 1998 with leukemia, when he was just 3 years old.
Months of chemotherapy followed, and Nares met other families who were struggling to get their children to the hospital for treatments, often several times a week. Many had no reliable, affordable transportation.
After Emilio passed away, just before his sixth birthday, Richard and his wife, Diane, founded the Emilio Nares Foundation to honor his memory and to help other children in need.
At first, Nares did all the driving. The children and families he served often lived in poverty and had no car or money for transportation. The requests kept coming, and today, 15 years after the nonprofit was founded, Nares and his group have provided more than 33,000 rides.
In addition to free transportation, the group offers support services and other resources to families. The nonprofit launched a healthy eating program and is planning to expand its services to children’s hospitals along the West Coast.
As he makes his way south through Oregon and California, Nares will stop at several children’s hospitals. At each one, he will present a T-shirt he designed to make children more comfortable while they receive treatment.
Called “Emilio’s Loving Tabs” shirts, they’re equipped with a special shoulder panel that provides medical staff administering chemotherapy easy access to a child’s chest catheter port, without requiring them to lift up or remove their clothes.
By summer’s end, Nares hopes to raise $250,000 for the foundation.
CNN’s Allie Torgan spoke with Nares about the run. Below is an edited version of their conversation.
CNN: You’re trying to get from Seattle to San Diego on foot. How do you train for this, and how long will it take?
Richard Nares: I’ve been training since October, and it’s a gradual buildup of miles. I’ve run 1,352 miles for training so far. The run is going to take roughly 10 and a half weeks and 1,700 miles. And that will equate to about 30 miles a day, six days a week.
CNN: Tell me more about the T-shirts you are delivering to kids in children’s hospitals on the way?
Nares: We are starting at Seattle Children’s Hospital and we are going to present nine children’s hospitals that are along my route with “Emilio’s Loving Tabs” T-shirts. The shirt is a breathable texture and is very comfortable – like a runner’s shirt. It has snaps on one shoulder and down one sleeve – and with those snaps, when it opens up, it provides access to a child’s port-a-cath or Hickman catheter, and that’s where they receive chemo or have blood drawn.
The T-shirt is such a simple idea. Families who have kids with cancer know what impact it has. They have to go through treatment for two and a half to three years, so if we can provide a sense of comfort and less stress to the patient and family, we’re doing a wonderful thing.
CNN: Where did you get the idea for the T-shirts?
Richard Nares: It always comes back to Emilio, because through our journey with him, I saw how difficult the treatment was for him to be accessed. He was only 3 years old, but I saw the fear and the anguish every time he had to have the access in his port-a-cath to get chemo or have blood drawn. It was really very frightening for him and stressful to us.
With this shirt, it’s a real game changer, because the snaps open and allows doctors and nurses easy access. We believe that a child who has to fight this horrible disease and fight for their life, they should be able to have some comfort and a sense of normalcy, so that’s what this shirt provides.
It’s our duty to provide this comfort, and seeing it and living it, I know what an impact it can make.
CNN: How do you stay motivated when you run? Do you listen to music?
Nares: I never listen to music – ever. To be thinking about Emilio’s journey and the children I see every day, it’s going to push me through. It will be grueling and punishing, but when I think about what each child has to go through every day for two to three years, it makes it all worthwhile.
The forefront is always Emilio and the children who have to battle every day. I am fortunate enough to be out there to help, but it’s always about the children – they motivate me, and they are the heroes.
Want to get involved? Check out the Emilio Nares Foundation website and see how to help.
To donate to Richard’s Heart & Sole for Emilio, click the CrowdRise widget below.