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On the Coast Magazine

Miles 2 Give

08/30/2013 06:19PM ● Published by Nancy Babin

Some people are blessed with vision and a life’s purpose from an early age. But sadly for some, it takes a life-altering moment, or worse – a tragic event, to trigger a search for meaning. That’s what happened to one of our local guys here On The Coast, Landon Cooper. After a dear friend and coworker lost her battle with a rare cancer known as Ewing’s Sarcoma, his life was “profoundly changed.”

Landon was born in Alabama and was a frequent vacationer to 30A since childhood before settling in as a resident mixologist at the infamous Red Bar in Grayton Beach. In between he was an avid soccer player and inaugural member of the semi-pro 2008 Panama City Beach Pirates soccer team. Landon’s talents in the restaurant and bar industry took him around the country to top-producing clubs and events before landing him in the “mosh pit” of Glendale, Arizona. It was there when he met Ashley Davis.

Landon describes Ashley as one who “had a vibrant spirit that could fill a room with her smile and a positive attitude that could change any scene.” Ashley was only 23 years old when she lost her battle to sarcoma, also known as the “forgotten cancer.”

Sarcoma is a cancer that develops in the body’s connective and soft tissue. It affects less than 1% of adults but is more prevalent in young adults and children, accounting for about 15% of all childhood cancers. Because it is so rare, its research does not get much attention or government funding. The hole left by the passing of his friend inspired Landon to walk away from a 10-year career to start Miles 2 Give, a non-profit organization to raise money and awareness for sarcoma.

It was during the formation of Miles 2 Give that Landon learned “sarcoma affected many more friends than I was aware of. I was oblivious, but now I can see.” This weighty discovery is what lead Landon to partner up with runners Ryan Priest, Miles 2 Give’s tour director, and John McKay, its tour videographer whose own mother passed away just over a year ago. Another member of the team, Ryan Bonhardt, is also a local, and he helps run the organization’s website.

This 501c3 organization, whose sole purpose is to raise money for sarcoma research, raised over $100,000 and logged over 3100 miles in their first event. The young men of Miles 2 Give had committed to run a marathon a day for 150 days straight. Beginning February 14, 2013, they ran from the beaches of San Francisco, CA to Washington, DC, ending with a beach bash in Ocean City, MD last month. And this is just the beginning. The team plans to take their cross-country treks world-wide “with many more globally still to come.”

These ultra runners run for those who metaphorically run a marathon within their own bodies, battling for life. Within those suffering from the debilitating disease, there is a war waging 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, “because cancer never takes a break.” And each day of their run, these young men would paint the name of a special cancer warrior on their face and dedicate that day’s run to that person. Their bus bears signatures of different colors representing supporters, survivors and lost warriors alike and is a constant reminder of the men, women and children who are all too familiar with sarcoma.

As with other cancers, early detection is key to winning the war on sarcoma. Landon, John, Ryan Priest and Ryan Bonhardt hope to impact people and inspire others to “participate in the ripple effect of a pebble in an ocean” – the further the rings spread from the center, the bigger the circle they encompass. Even a small pebble in the ocean creates a movement; so does each step along the run! To learn more, purchase logo gear or art work by Landon, donate, and get involved, please visit the team’s website and follow them on Facebook:

(www.miles2give.org)

www.facebook.com/www.miles2give.org/info

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