Giving his miles to a cause
Northern Arizona University student Ryan
Priest was in Guatemala when he received a phone call from a friend with a
proposal for changing and saving lives. Priest’s friend, Landon Cooper, was
starting a charity, Miles2Give, that involved running across the United States
to raise money for sarcoma cancer research, and he wanted Priest’s help.
Immediately, Priest knew his plans
abroad were about to change.
“One of Landon’s best friends died of
sarcoma cancer,” Priest says. “He decided to run in her memory. There was one
night, in Hollywood, when he decided to stop climbing the corporate ladder –
that Hollywood life – and devote all of his energy to helping others and
motivating others, which was so inspiring to me.”
Priest was brought on as the tour director of Miles2Give. In this role, he handled creating the trip itinerary, speaking with organizations and media, and ensuring that everything ran smoothly – Cooper, included. The road from California to Maryland is long, and by the time the team reached Utah, Cooper was wearing down. Despite this, their drive to make a difference kept them going.
“Patients with cancer cannot take a day off,” Priest says. “They cannot take a break or escape it. So no matter what, we keep going.”
Sharing the load
To reduce the burden on Cooper while still maintaining their pace of 24 miles per day, Priest and another person on staff began running when Cooper could not. Across the heartland of America, the team ran east.
Each morning, team members called a sarcoma patient to let them know they had someone in their corner. Each day, they dedicated their run to an individual either battling sarcoma or who had passed away. Along the way, Priest says, people have stopped to share their support and stories.
“They basically came and knocked on our door,” Priest says. “They said there weren’t enough words to thank us for what we were doing. We heard a father’s story: his daughter had been sent to Houston for weeks of chemotherapy. They won the battle - their daughter survived and now lives in Texas.”
In August, when they reach the Atlantic, Priest and the team hope to have raised $100,000 for sarcoma cancer research. Then, they just might do it all again, to raise even more awareness, funding, and hope for those suffering from sarcoma cancer.
When Priest returns to Northern Arizona University, he’ll be more than a student—he’ll also be a hero to thousands.
“I know it’s cliché, but you have to believe in yourself and have confidence in yourself,” Ryan says. “Whatever you decide and put your mind to, you can accomplish those goals.”