Tom Knoll, a 79-year-old retired Marine, has run more than 75,000 miles, enough to circle the world three times.
Knoll, a man of great spirit, conviction and endurance, has raised more than $1 million for charity since 1976.
This time, he's on a 1,650-mile trip from New Orleans to International Falls. He is expected to finish this endeavor on Thursday, July 12. Then he will make one more stop in Minnetonka to help Rose, an 11-year-old girl from Roseville who suffers from cerebral palsy, go to Disney World.
“This one here is just to show that senior citizens can do stuff too, and also to make some money for everyone,” Knoll told Cpl. Nana Dannsa-Appiah of the Marine Forces Reserve when embarking on the run in New Orleans on May 28.
A retired U.S. Marine Master Gunnery Sergeant, Knoll has been deployed to four conflicts: Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan. “I’m lucky. I still got two legs and two arms. I am doing it for the guys and gals that lose a leg, lose an arm, get fixed and are ready to go back.”
After the bombing of the World Trade Center in 2001, at the age of 69, Knoll came out of retirement to serve the country again as a part of a military intelligence team for the U.S. Department of Defense. Knoll was a participant in the first Ironman competition in Hawaii, where he placed sixth in the grueling race.
Knoll decided to run for meaning instead of just personal fitness. In 1978, after raising more than $8,000 for crippled kids in Okinawa, he wondered "Why not a million?" And so Knoll wrote a book, entitled "Why Not a Million?" a diary of his daily triumphs and tribulations while running for charity.
Then he did it. Knoll reached his $1 million goal for charity last summer.
Knoll wanted to mark that accomplishment by engaging in one final effort for the four charities that are dear to his heart: Sunshine Foundation, the Jimmy V Cancer Foundation, the Wounded Warriors Project and the Honolulu Rotary in their effort to eradicate Polio.
"We just finished six days with Tom," said Rod Owen on Facebook. "He gets up and is out the door ready to run 30 miles every day with this incredible positive attitude. If you need an example of dedication, sacrifice and perseverance, spend a day with Tom Knoll!"
Even though he will have met his running goals of 1,650 miles, Knoll isn’t done helping out just yet.
He has offered to run an additional 24 hours at from July 14-15 (from noon to noon) to raise funds for the Sunshine Foundation to help Rose.
This past year, Rose endured many difficult medical treatments and her health was poor. She found hope when she and her parents learned that the Sunshine Foundation would be answering her dream to visit Florida, and she worked hard to get well and stay motivated to become stronger.
Cerebral palsy is a term which encompasses a set of neurological conditions that cause physical disability in human development, affecting the brain and nervous system.
Knoll learned about Rose’s story and could identify with her courage. He decided that it was important to spend an extra day helping her dream come true.
Knoll, Rose and the Sunshine Foundation request that the community get involved and support this effort. You can join him and run, cheer him on and ask friends and colleagues to donate online.
The Sunshine Foundation is the original wish granting organization founded in 1976 to answer the dreams of chronically ill, seriously ill, physically challenged and abused children ages 3 to 18. It was founded by Bill Sample, a Philadelphia police officer who was on foot patrol at St. Christopher's Hospital for Children.
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