MANHATTAN, Kan. (WIBW) -- The trip is grueling and will take months but Chris Praetzel is determined to run from coast to coast, spreading the word about a cause that’s had a lasting impact on his family.
"I’m doing it in honor of my younger brother Brian. He had a kidney transplant back in 1996. He’s honestly my best friend. I don’t know what I’d do without him but the doctors, at birth, gave my family a bleak outlook saying he probably wasn’t going to make it and told us to prepare for the worst so it’s a blessing to have him so I with this journey, I’m trying to do whatever I can to make a difference and spread awareness about organ donation. Less than half of Americans are registered to be organ donors and all it takes is just checking that box on your license or you can register at donatelife.net so it’s such a simple thing and it really can change a lot of lives," he told 13 News. He says his brother received the transplant from a family in Texas who lost their daughter in a car accident.
WIBW caught up with Praetzel in Manhattan Friday where he was resting for the day.
He calls the 3,000 mile trek the "Brotherly Love Run." The 22-year-old, from Mullica Hill, New Jersey, is started in Los Angeles and is headed east towards his home state. He’s making the trip by himself, equipped only with a makeshift cart to hold his gear and a sign to promote his mission. He runs between 20-30 miles a day and has logged up to 57 miles.
"I don’t know where I’m sleeping from night to night sometimes. I have a tent and a sleeping bag so often I’ll camp out on campgrounds. I’ve been staying in churches a lot as well," he said.
"I’ve really been blown away by the kindness of people- the kindness of strangers really helping keep me going, just even offering a positive word here and there really makes a difference...
The more miles I cover, my drive just continues to grow stronger and I have no doubts that I can finish this and any kind of fears have been completely eliminated. I’ve overcome a lot just to get to this point here in Manhattan so I’m just going to continue to take it day by day and continue on," Praetzel added.
Right after his graduation from college, Praetzel flew to California in May to start his journey. Next, he'll travel through Topeka and Kansas City. He plans to make it to Atlantic City, NJ in early October where his family will be waiting to welcome him home. He says his brother is cheering him on every step of the way.
"I think running across the country really should open some peoples’ eyes to this problem and bring the attention to it and make a difference," he said.