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PrattTribune - Pratt, KS
  • Walker in search of funding for cancer research

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  • For most people in Pratt, a trip to Wichita will take just over an hour. For B.J. Timoner that trip will take four days.
    Timoner, who is 43, is walking across the United States to raise awareness and funds for pancreatic cancer. Timoner arrived in Pratt Monday carrying a very heavy 60-pound backpack that holds his tent, clothes, food, water and a tall pole topped with an American flag.
    As he hit Main Street, he had reached 1,400 miles of his 3,000-mile long journey from San Diego, Calif. to Myrtle Beach, S.C. His journey started at the Santa Monica Pier in California on Jan. 2. He was on day 83 when he reached Pratt. His journey's end will be on Jones Beach, N.Y. around June 25.
    While walking from 18 to 20 miles a day is challenging, Timoner admits that it is much more challenging mentally to make himself get out of his tent and start walking again. Sometimes he procrastinates as much as an hour before convincing himself he will not quit that day.
    Another challenge is the relentless monotony of walking. It takes him three days of walking to cover the same distance a car can drive in an hour. Flat land with no landmarks makes it difficult because he can't see any goals to walk towards.
    Water is also an issue. It took him five days to cross the Mohave Desert and he drank six gallons of water.
    He has taken just nine days off since he started and three of those days were during the first week when he came down with the flu. It took many days after that to get his strength back, Timoner said.
    He burns about 1,000 calories a day and has lost 35 pounds in 12 weeks. He admits he was out of shape when he started.
    He will spend the night in Pratt at the home a family that gave him a bed for the night. He spent Sunday night in Greensburg in the Best Western Motel for free. Many people along the way have given him shelter and money for food besides cancer donations.
    "People have been very kind to me," Timoner said.
    Along his path the beauty in Alabama, the scenery in Arizona and New Mexico along old Route 66 has astounded him. He has been overwhelmed with the kindness of folk who have fed and housed him.
    When he completes his walk his plans are to turn around and walk back. He will ride from Jones Beach down to Tybee Island, Ga. then walk back to the Santa Monica Pier.
    In 1974, Timoner's 41-year-old father Bertram died of pancreatic cancer when B.J. was just five years old. His grandfather also died of pancreatic cancer. It has actually hit three generations of his family.
    Page 2 of 2 - While it is too later for him to save them but he walks so he can give someone else some more time with their kids, he said.
    He decided to walk to raise money because it was a decent way to make a spectacle of himself while raising cancer awareness.
    Pancreatic cancer ranks as the fourth leading killer among cancers. It is an aggressive form of cancer with 75 percent dying within the first year of diagnosis and only six percent survive for five years. About 40,000 die each year in the U.S. yet it only gets about two percent of National Cancer Institute funding.
    "It's sill pretty much a death sentence," he said.
    He began is trip across America carrying a backpack that holds his tent, food, laptop and other supplies. He found a three wheel stroller along the way and used it until his sixth flat tire he returned to the backpack.
    Carrying the backpack proved to be a better attention getter than pushing a stroller. More people would pull over and talk with him when he was carrying the backpack but would just ignore him when he had the stroller.
    His sunburned face is testimony to the many days he has spent traveling in the variety of weather conditions as he crosses the country.
    This is actually his second trip across America. He started his first trip on Christmas 2010 with his feet in the Pacific Ocean, traveled 2,685 miles including a five month stop when he had a heart attack and arrived at Myrtle Beach 49 weeks later on Dec. 3, 2011. He raised $26,000 on that first trip. So far on this trip he has raised $9,300 and that is climbing every day.
    While pink is the color for breast cancer, purple is the color for pancreatic cancer. He found a K-State banner during his trip and added it to his outfit.
    Timoner walks for the Lustgarten Foundation, a private foundation and the largest of its kind, whose sole function is to raise money for pancreatic cancer research. CableVision completely underwrites the Lustgarten Foundation so 100 percent of the money Timoner raises goes to research, Timoner said.

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