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December 11th, 2009
11:47 AM ET

"Hope or Die": A Prince Among Men

Jonathon Prince lives a life larger than himself, chasing a dream to make the world a little better for the less fortunate - one running stride at a time. Right now he's running, in the dead of winter, to raise money for six nonprofits. CNN Producer Annika Young recently caught up with Prince as he ran across the freezing Texas plains. Watch his inspiring story below.

“Annika, remember when you told me to keep running because it’s my passion? Well, I’m running again.” I read that text message from Jonathon Prince and thought, “Wow! Really?”

I met Jonathon, a native of Las Vegas, during his Run for Relief campaign back in 2005. He raised $20,000 for victims of Hurricane Katrina. I was impressed then.

And now that he’s on his third cross-country trek, I’m more than impressed. I’m dumbfounded. No. 1, it’s winter. No. 2, it’s winter. And No. 3, it's winter! Not to mention his latest philanthropic effort is lacking major sponsorship and a proper road crew.

He travels with two people: Mike Hansen and Andrea Batel. Mike worked in television and Andrea worked for an accounting firm. Both quit their 9-5 gigs to go on the road with Jonathon, all three of them, blankets, clothes and shoes packed tight in a little Hyundai Sonata. They often share a motel room. Right before his run in Pecos, Jonathon slept in a chair.

Yes, I had some concerns. But if I know anything about Jonathon, he can’t be deterred. If he says he’s going to do it. He does it. And I wanted to be there to see him do it. Jonathon launched the “Hope or Die” campaign earlier this year. The thought behind the concept is a choice. Hope or Die. According to Jonathon, if you’re not hoping for something you might as well be dead.

This time he’s running for six non-profit organizations: Habitat for Humanity, The Girl Effect, Water.org, Bread for Life, RAM (Remote Area Medical) and Global Greens. Jonathon kicked off his run on October 15 on the Santa Monica Pier. He’s already been through California, Arizona and New Mexico. I caught up with him in Texas. After the Lone Star State, it’s off to Arkansas, Tennessee, Virginia and he’ll finish March 27 in Washington. He hopes President Obama runs the last mile with him. So do I.

To say that Jonathon’s grandfather, mother, and two older brothers are proud of him is an understatement. But his dad thought he’d gone mad. During one of his earlier runs, his dad found Jonathon mid-run and tried to make him come home. Jonathon refused. With two runs under his belt and a third underway, his father is now a believer. I am too.

During his run in Pecos, Texas, I promised Jonathon I’d run the last two miles with him. I ran, walked, jogged and sucked in a chest full of freezing cold air. I thought, “How does he do this every day? It’s literally a marathon a day!”

He warned me being on the road is…being on the road. We’re talking cheap motels, not so great meals, and no bathrooms. I found out about the latter the hard way. Let’s just say I’m grateful for baby wipes and hand sanitizer. While we were on that last lap together he turned to me and said, “You OK, cheeks? You’re a real trooper.” I wanted to say, “No, you are” but couldn’t find my voice. The wind ate it. I started to slow up a bit and he turned again and said, “I’m not finishing this last lap without you.”

That was all the motivation I needed. Here’s a man, who never ran track a day in his life but has run across the country twice, a man who runs six days a week for other people, a man so focused, so driven, so determined. Before I knew it, we had crossed over our makeshift finish line.

I’m inspired and encouraged by Jonathon Prince. It’s not just the six nonprofit organizations that benefit from his passion, it’s people like you and me who see his drive and commitment and it motivates us to cross our own personal finish lines.

So, hope or die? Which do you choose? I choose hope.

–CNN Producer Annika Young

To learn more, to donate, and to support Prince's cross-country run, visit his site: www.hopeordie.org

soundoff (28 Responses)
  1. Sabrina Weaver

    Nice Story.

    December 11, 2009 at 2:22 pm |
  2. michael armstrong sr. TX.

    This guy reminds me of Forest Gump except this guys running with a purpose .

    December 11, 2009 at 2:29 pm |
  3. Niraj Kumar

    Nice story.. It is good to meet Jonathan prince while his Pecos, TX stay. It is nice to see that you cover the story of a person who is running for cause.

    December 11, 2009 at 2:59 pm |
  4. Jennifer Filardo

    Inspiring story! Thank you for the coverage!!

    December 11, 2009 at 3:18 pm |
  5. Matt Simmons

    This Prince guy is UNREAL!
    I've known about this run since October... Why is this the first we are hearing of it?

    I HOPE his run makes it all the way to the White House!

    December 11, 2009 at 3:44 pm |
  6. Katie Hall

    Wonderful story everyone should hear. Glad it's being covered. Great guy with such a great cause. Love it!

    December 11, 2009 at 4:17 pm |
  7. Tanya Greene

    This is the type of story we all to hear about. I wish more people (including myself) would give of themselves to make this world a better place!

    December 11, 2009 at 4:51 pm |
  8. Ron Kncie

    Excellent story!! Great to hear stories like this one!!!

    December 11, 2009 at 4:51 pm |
  9. Dean

    Amazing stuff... Run, Run, Run... Yes, running with a purpose makes it huge, remarkable, and inspirational

    December 11, 2009 at 5:03 pm |
  10. Kimberly

    This is incredible! I'll definitely tune in!

    December 11, 2009 at 6:21 pm |
  11. Katie Hall

    What an awesome story! Who wouldn't be inspired by such an incredible individual.

    December 11, 2009 at 10:36 pm |
  12. Greg Forde

    a well written inspirational story "cheeks"

    December 12, 2009 at 6:36 pm |
  13. Olivya Ross

    i love the story i thnk he's doing sonething good for the world, this is something i would totally love to run for this cause

    December 13, 2009 at 8:59 pm |
  14. josh Taekman

    What an inspiration you are and proof that you can do anything you can put your mind to it! Keep up the great work and keep taking your EBOOST to keep you Healthy & Energized.

    December 14, 2009 at 12:15 am |
  15. Luis in Texas

    Mr. Prince, you are an inspiration to the world! If we could just have more people like you, there would be no excuses for ending the miseries that aflict the world. May you continue to excel in all your endeavors!

    December 14, 2009 at 10:08 am |
  16. Thayib Mohamad

    My body is here but my spirit runs with you my friend! Cheer up!! 🙂

    December 14, 2009 at 10:53 am |
  17. Indigo Jones

    I wish someone would do something like this for charity only by doing something that they absolutely HATE doing rather than doing something that is self-rewarding and then coincidentally raising money at the same time.

    December 14, 2009 at 11:02 am |
  18. Josue Santana

    this guy is really inspiring me. he one of the only few Americans who have the courage to do this

    December 14, 2009 at 11:38 am |
  19. Dion Fearon

    Jonathon Prince is amazing. If you are reading this...Keep running my brother in the struggle...Your passion will take you far. I understand your struggle and your need to run to benefit others. Pay no attention to the nasayers...well actually do pay attention...use their nasaying as fuel to keep on running. I want to run with you when you get to DC. I am praying for favor for you that President Obama will run with you. You inspire me to want to do more. Keep up the amazing work you are doing!

    December 14, 2009 at 11:57 am |
  20. Dion Fearon

    @ Indigo Jones...Stay positive!

    December 14, 2009 at 11:59 am |
  21. John Mumm

    Awesome job....but what is so special about running in the south during the winter?? I mean the low is in the 30s and it isn't that bad why doesn't he join a few up in the arctic and run up here for a WINTER RUN....

    December 14, 2009 at 12:27 pm |
  22. Karen

    Sounds great! Just thought I would point out that it is not yet winter...

    December 14, 2009 at 12:29 pm |
  23. cole

    @ John Mumm, when you start doing what he is doing in the artic for some winter runs, then you can have the right to say something like that. Get a move on, i'll come and join you, getting used to these new england winters.

    December 14, 2009 at 12:55 pm |
  24. John Mumm

    sorry cole I aint in the lower 48....come join me up in interior Alaska and we can talk...

    December 14, 2009 at 3:15 pm |
  25. Chelsey

    this guy inspired me, and this story should be displayed in all schools across america! ive shared this story with my class, and everyone felt affected by it.

    December 16, 2009 at 10:56 am |
  26. (Prince's older brother) Tony Lewis Jr.

    Prince, better known to me as Terrance Jonathan Lewis, is my baby brother no more. He became a brilliant man the moment he found something that many people will never discover. He discovered within himself a purpose worthy for his life, talent and time. He expresses this to others via stride after stride, breath after breath, thought after thought that we are more than we think we are and he is proof. Keep growing Terrance, the world loves you.

    December 16, 2009 at 5:34 pm |
  27. Alicia

    Can anyone please tell me where they got those yellow and black jackets to run in? I would like to get one...and am looking forward to donating money to this fantastic charity.

    December 28, 2009 at 1:30 pm |