Longtime Burbank resident Roy Wiegand will hit the ground running on July 4 — and he won't stop for 80 miles.
The ultra-distance runner will take off from Angels Stadium in Anaheim for his 80-mile trek to raise money for the Michael Hoefflin Foundation for Children's Cancer in honor of Christopher Wilke, the 12-year-old Burbank Boy Scout and Angels fan who lost his battle with the disease in March.
Christopher, a David Starr Jordan Middle School student, died as a result of having cholangiocarcinoma, a rare cancer of the bile duct, just two-and-a-half months after he was diagnosed. Christopher was the first patient on record at Children's Hospital Los Angeles, and among the youngest patients ever, to be diagnosed with a pure cholangiocarcinoma.
Wiegand, 50, was inspired after he saw crowds of people, of all ages, attend Christopher's rosary service at St. Robert Bellarmine Catholic Church, where everyone was instructed to wear colored clothes instead of black.
"I can't emphasize enough how moved I was, how touched — the number of people that were there, the number of lives he had touched, the number of lives he had affected at 12," Wiegand said.
Since Christopher's baseball jersey number was 48, Wiegand hopes to raise $48,000 for the Santa Clarita-based nonprofit, which provides financial and emotional support to children with cancer and their families.
"A lot of families go into ruin, lose their house," Wiegand said. "Medical bills are staggering."
This won't be the first time Wiegand will run for a cause.
In 2011, Wiegand completed his first ultra-distance run for charity, logging 100 miles up 12,000 feet of elevation from the San Buenaventura Mission in Ventura to Mt. Pinos in the Los Padres National Forest to raise money for Lifewater International, a nonprofit that builds water systems in rural areas.
Over the next two years, he completed 110-mile and 250-mile runs, respectively, for the same charity.
This year, he envisioned running for a local cause.
"It was almost like somebody took me by the neck and shook me and said, 'OK, do you need more clues? Here's why you're going to run this year,'" Wiegand said, referring to when he heard about Christopher's story.
Wiegand's 17-year-old son was in the same Boy Scout troop as Christopher, though the boys, five years apart, didn't know each other.
During his journey, Wiegand will be wearing a GPS tracker so those at home can visit the foundation's website to follow his progress. And if they're feeling up to it, runners and cyclists can join him on the streets for as many miles as they want. He plans to run through Burbank, and end in Santa Clarita.
"I'm inviting anybody who wants to join me, if they want to run a mile, or 10 miles, or half a day, or run further than they've ever run before," Wiegand said.
By his side the whole way, a friend follows him with a trailer stocked with water, sports drinks, bananas and frozen watermelon, also checking his feet and powdering his toes during shoe changes.
But ultimately, Christopher's memory is what'll keep his legs moving.
"This year is going to be about Christopher," Wiegand said. "He was a great kid, we want to keep his memory alive," he said.
To donate to Roy's Run, visit www.roysrun.kintera.org.