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. [cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/12/11/hopeordie.computer.screen.jpg]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.
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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.
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–CNN Producer Annika Young
To learn more, to donate, and to support Prince's cross-country run, visit his site: www.hopeordie.org