One hundred and forty seven days, 11 pairs of shoes and more than 2,800 miles later, Dennis Yang is still running.
The 40-year-old runner, children’s author and founder of the nonprofit Papa Didos Ideals Foundation is attempting to run the perimeter of the United States to promote children’s literacy.
Yang said he finds his motivation in watching kids achieving their own goals and aspiring to live healthy lifestyles.
“As soon as I start sweating, I get ideas,” said Yang, who averages a marathon — about 26 miles — per day.
Yang visits elementary school students, at-risk or disadvantaged kids and patients in children’s hospitals. He tells his story and reads his books to varied audiences, from hundreds of people in an auditorium to a few in a hospital or classroom.
His journey, which began on a pier in Santa Monica, California, on Aug. 25, brought Yang through north Florida on Jan. 11 as he headed to an event at Shriners Hospitals for Children in Tampa.
He also visited the kids of the Robert Halleen Boys & Girls Club of Homosassa on Jan. 20.
Yang gets by with help from his coordinator and girlfriend, 28-year-old Crystal Love. Love meets or follows him in their travel-trailer to and from each destination and schedules his appearances. The trailer acts as the couple’s sometimes home and constant storage space, housing thousands of copies of Yang’s books.
Yang wrote his first stories in the form of letters to his 13-year-old adopted son while he traveled overseas on business. The letters eventually became five published books.
“It was my way of communicating with him all the things I thought he should know,” Yang said.
The stories, which grew in maturity as his son aged, are donated to the children Yang visits on his journey.
His pen name, Papa Didos, is the name Yang’s son calls him.
Love and Yang rely on meal and room donations from helpful patrons along the way.
“We have not gone more than four days without a shower and bed to sleep in,” Love said.
Big Oaks RV and Mobile Home Community General Manager Timothy Glynn said he did not think twice when Love called to ask him to donate a space in the Spring Hill park.
“I thought it was a fantastic opportunity,” he said.
Glynn said the two were very well-respected by the park community and touched a lot of people.
“They came as guests and left as Big Oaks family,” Glynn said.
Yang gives his books out freely, but for people who want to pay toward his $1 million goal, they can still buy his books. He intends to spend that money by publishing more books to give away and creating toys inspired by the characters in his books.
He has earned $5,755.45 so far, but he will invest the money raised even if he does not meet the goal.
“When all is said and done,” he said, “all of the money will go right back to the kids.”
Now a quarter of the way through his journey, Yang has been stranded in the desert, crossed paths with rattlesnakes and was even desperate enough to try drinking water out of a cactus.
With more than 8,000 miles still to go before his goal is reached, Yang is not worried.
“Each day that I’m still standing and still able to do what I do is a day I consider successful,” he said.